In a game between two familiar and evenly matched softball squads, the difference-maker for West Johnston was Megan Mills as the senior tossed a complete game gem while also delivering the game-winning hit in the Wildcats’ 2-1 win over Cleveland Thursday night.
Holding the Rams to just five singles, two never leaving the infield, Mills’ biggest contribution was at the plate in the bottom of the sixth when she muscled a Taylor Drayton offering into left field, bringing home Kassidy Wood for what proved to be the game-winning run.
“She’s amazing,” West coach Laura Jefferson said of her standout pitcher. “It’s always going to be tough between us and Cleveland but Megan, she’s just a phenomenal pitcher and that’s the difference when we’re playing teams and they’ve got runners on first and second and no outs, she can come through.”
As she did in the top of the fourth inning when an error and a walk allowed Cleveland’s Ali Papworth and Kayla Womack to reach base safely with no outs. Mills shut the door with back-to-back strikeouts before coaxing a weak popup for the third out to keep the game tied.
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The Rams (3-2) stranded runners on base in each of their final six innings at the plate.
“We just couldn’t get the job done tonight,” offered Cleveland coach Jason Morris. “We pushed and pushed and pushed but we just couldn’t seem to break through tonight. We did a good job at playing small ball here or there; we just couldn’t get the key hits when we needed them.”
The Wildcats improved to 3-2 on the season.
Three to watch
Megan Mills, West Johnston: Although Mills just racked up four strikeouts through seven innings of work, she was near perfection when the Rams got runners into scoring position.
Taylor Drayton, Cleveland: Drayton was every bit the equal of her former middle school teammate Mills, holding the Wildcats to just four hits on the night.
Drayton also accounted for the Rams’ lone run of the game when she drove in Anna Twisdale on a groundball to shortstop in the top of the third inning.
Brooke Applequist, West Johnston: The second baseman made seven putouts on the night and helped to stabilize the Wildcats’ handling of Cleveland’s numerous bunt attempts, something West Johnston was troubled by when the teams met the previous week.
They said it
“The one thing I’m really happy about is that we don’t have to play Cleveland again,” Jefferson said. “They are a really great team. Taylor Drayton is awesome and everybody knows everybody.”
On Mills’ game-winning hit to left in the sixth inning, Cleveland left fielder Brooke Hamlin threw a bullet to the infield and the relay throw from Julia Wiggs to catcher Alexis Ivey was just in time for Ivey to apply the tag on the Wildcats’ Tatum Brummitt. The play kept the lead at one run entering the final inning.
Closing the door
Cleveland had one last chance in the top of the seventh inning to extend the game when Hamlin and Drayton reached base.
However, with the pair of Rams on second and third base, Mills induced a slow grounder back to herself and calmly threw the ball to first to nail down the victory.
By the numbers
9: Runners left on base by the Rams.
7: Total stolen bases for West Johnston’s Nadia Blevins through first five games of season.
112: Pitches thrown by Mills to nail down the win.