Less than 24 hours after his club’s most disappointing defeat of the season to date, Cleveland coach Jamie Lee sought a way to quickly reenergize the Rams before Tuesday’s third-place game of the Johnston County Easter Invitational Baseball Tournament.
Lee found what he was looking for in the opposing dugout.
Taking on backyard rival West Johnston, the Rams bounced back with a strong 8-1 triumph in the consolation event at South Johnston’s Bruce Coats Field.
“It doesn’t matter what sport, it’s going to be a big game when we play (West),” Lee said. “All in all, this was a complete effort for us after (Monday’s) tough loss (to Bunn). Our guys responded well and we were ready to play.”
Pacing the Rams (12-2) was pitcher Landry Moore, who was making his first start of the season. Moore went the distance, scattering seven hits while striking out four. Moore even offered a rarity on offense as he scored all the way from second base on a wild pitch as part of a three-run uprising in the bottom of the fourth inning.
“I had pitched almost two innings (Monday),” Moore said. “But I knew if I kept my pitch count down, I could stay out there. I just tried to come out and throw strikes. Third place wasn’t where we wanted to be, but West Johnston is a big rival, and we didn’t want to lose to them this time after beating them twice earlier (in the season).”
Seth Gooding went 2-for-3 with two RBI for the Rams, while West Johnston (7-8) scored its lone run on Wade Eatmon’s RBI single in the top of the seventh.
South Johnston 10, Smithfield-Selma 1 (Fifth Place): The Trojans recovered from an opening-round loss to Bunn with a pair of victories, including a conquest of Two Rivers Conference foe Smithfield-Selma in Tuesday’s fifth-place event.
South Johnston (8-7) never trailed after plating three runs in the bottom of the first frame. Applachian State University signee Zachary Bridges delivered the biggest blow of the inning with a two-run homer to center.
Bridges would go 4-for-4 with a double, a longball, three RBI and two runs scored to spark a Trojans’ attack that plated at least one run in every inning except the third.
“As a team, we like to win,” Bridges said. “This tournament is a very big deal to us and our school, so it was nice to come back and get two wins. It would have been nice to get that first one, but at least this gives us some momentum when we go back into conference play.”
Mound ace Sauyer Roberts worked into the sixth frame for South Johnston before giving way to Nash Johnson. They combined to limit the Spartans (4-9) to just two hits, including a run-scoring double from Austin Blackmon in the top of the fifth.
“Sauyer was dominant as always,” said Bridges, who is the Trojans’ starting catcher. “Then we got Nash in there, and he has kind of become our closer. I really liked what I saw.”
Smithfield-Selma will get two more cracks at South Johnston this season, beginning with a home game on April 12 in Two Rivers action.
Harnett Central 14, Triton 13 (Seventh Place): The day’s wildest game was the opening one as Harnett Central rallied from an eight-run deficit to outlast the Hawks in a three-hour thriller.
Triton (9-5), looking for its third straight victory over the Trojans this season, moved ahead 8-0 and seemed in control before Harnett Central (4-8) clawed back with a seven-spot in the bottom of the third.
But the offense was just beginning. Triton led 12-11 going into the bottom of the sixth, but the Trojans rallied with a trio of markers as Rex Pope delivered an RBI double and teammate Ian Jones drove in a run with an infield single.
Ahead 14-12, Harnett Central held on in the top of the seventh despite an RBI two-bagger from Triton’s Tyler Vaughn. Pope, who came on in relief in the top of the fifth, then induced a flyout to end the game and wrap up the mound decision.
Harnett Central’s Eddie White delivered a three-run double as part of the Trojans’ key rally in the bottom of the third.
The decision was the Hawks’ fifth straight loss after a 9-0 start.