Cleveland never held a lead in a near must-win battle with Two Rivers 3A Conference prep softball rival South Johnston Tuesday night. But that didn’t stop the Rams from getting a win.
Four days after succumbing to a five-run Triton rally in the bottom of the seventh inning, Cleveland completed a comeback from a six-run South Johnston lead in its final at bat to grab a 9-8 victory.
Ali Papworth’s two-run double in the bottom of the seventh inning completed the Cleveland comeback and prevented the Rams from a rough 0-2 start in league play.
“Coming out of this stretch 1-1 instead of 0-2 is huge in this conference,” said Cleveland coach Jason Morris. “You know every night is going to be a battle in this league. Getting a win like this makes us feel like we’re right back in the race.”
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Up 6-1, South Johnston (3-6, 1-1) loaded the bases with nobody out in the top of the fifth inning and there was the possibility that if the Trojans lanced a couple of the big extra-base hits they had in the game’s first two innings they could close out Cleveland (6-3, 1-1) by the run rule.
But Rams pitcher Taylor Drayton struck out the next three batters to escape the frame with no further damage done.
“They just kept coming,” said South Johnston coach Amanda Smith of Cleveland. “We talked before the game about the importance of continually putting up a run or two every inning. We had a great start, but the game changed when we had the bases loaded and nobody outs and we couldn’t get a single run out of it.”
Cleveland cut the lead to 6-5 in the bottom half of the fifth with Kayla Womack and Rebecca Straka driving in runs and a pair of runs coming home on a costly two-out Trojan error.
“We wanted to come out strong, but we’ve got great leadership and our seniors did a great job of keeping us in it,” Papworth said. “We just fought until it was over.”
Three to Watch
Ali Papworth, Cleveland: The junior outfielder went 3-for-4 with a home run, the game-winning double and three RBI.
“Taylor told me to make sure I kept my weight back,” Papworth said of her hitting improvement, “and I just thought about doing that.”
Both pitches she hit to produce runs where right up her alley: “They were both low and inside, right where I want them.”
Taylor Drayton, Cleveland: After a rough start — six runs and five hits allowed in the opening two innings, the right-handed senior held South to two runs over the final five innings and struck out 10, while issuing just one walk.
She added a solo home run to get the Rams’ scoring started in the fourth inning as well.
Anna Webster, South Johnston: She homered twice and has three dingers in her last two games.
“Anna has worked extremely hard working out over the past year or so and she’s always doing something extra to make herself better,” Smith said of the Charleston Southern basketball recruit. “She never misses a day lifting weights and the added strength she’s exhibiting has really been a big plus for our team.”
They Said it
“We just had that feeling that we maybe were owed one of these after (last) Friday night,” Morris said. “It was an exciting game. We just focused on keeping our focus in the moment and battling all night.
“It was just that drive to remind them that, ‘We’re still in this. We’re still in this.’”
By the Numbers
4: Ram batters with two or more hits on the night: Papworth (3-for-4), Womack (2-for-4), Alexis Ivey (2-for-3) and Juila Wiggs (2-for-4).
8: Runners stranded on base by South Johnston.
12: Total hits on the night for Cleveland, all of which came in the fourth inning or later.
1: Strikeout on the night by Ram batters.
2: Doubles by South’s Carmen Keene.
4: Total hits by Keene on the night.