Corinth Holders entered the stretch of three conference games in four days just like all of the other Two Rivers 3A Conference teams who were in the same boat: excited about the possibilities and challenges ahead.
The Pirates emerged from a back-to-back set against Johnston County rivals South Johnston and Cleveland alone on top of the conference standings and on the right side of a .500 overall record for the first time this season.
A night after topping South 4-0, Corinth Holders beat Cleveland 5-2 Tuesday night on the road behind a gutsy complete-game effort by UNC Greensboro recruit Jake Lewis on the mound and two big two-out hits from lead off man Khalil Hodge.
Hodge tripled with the bases loaded in the second, scoring Nick Peach, Will Jones and Bobby Beare to put the Pirates (4-3 overall, 3-0 conference) ahead for good. His slicing hit eluded the Cleveland left fielder’s attempt at a running catch and went to the fence.
Two innings later, Hodge came up again with two outs and a runner in scoring position and came through with a slicing single to right field to run the lead to 4-1.
“Khalil wasn’t himself early this year,” said Corinth Holders coach Adam Weaver. “But we made a small adjustment with him and he came out last night (against South Johnston) and hit some balls hard. He saw it was working.
“Tonight, he went out and did a great job at the plate in some big spots.”
Hodge finished the night 3-for-4.
Lewis worked his way out of a bases-loaded jam in the first inning, giving up only Avery Dean’s sacrifice fly before getting a pop up and the first of his 12 strikeouts on the night to end the inning.
“Jake didn’t have his best stuff, but he worked through it,” Weaver said. “He is going to compete and challenge hitters no matter what. He had to do that a little more tonight, but he worked through it.”
Lewis had worked the final two innings in the win over South Johnston. He gave up a single earned run, five hits and issued just one walk on Tuesday.
“It’s worked out like we thought it would for the most part,” Weaver said of his pitching staff’s work through the first two of three conference games in four days. “Jake knew the ball was his tonight until the end. He was determined to get the job done and he did.”
Tate Proctor added the Pirates’ final run with an RBI single, scoring Tyler Barritt in the fifth.
Seth Knott hit a pinch hit solo home run in the sixth for Cleveland, but the Rams (6-4 overall, 1-2 conference) only had two of their final 17 batters reach base. Cleveland, which started the season 6-1, fell to Triton on Monday night.
Lead off man Ryan Flores was 2-for-4 for the Rams in the loss.
The Pirates, who finished up their week playing SSS on Thursday night, were left a game ahead of Triton and South Johnston, but the conference race is still only 30 percent done.
“We’ve got another conference game ahead of us this week, and more to come after that,” Weaver said. “We’ve just got to keep competing every pitch every time we go out.”