No matter the team, no matter the opposing pitcher, North Johnston just keeps on winning.
The Panthers stayed unbeaten in the Eastern Plains 2A and in April, beating SouthWest Edgecombe in the bottom of the seventh on Holden Hales’ run-scoring single through a drawn-in infield for a 2-1 victory Tuesday night.
North Johnston (14-2, 5-0) won its fifth game in a row and its fourth one-run game of the season. Three of the Panthers’ wins came against the best of the Eastern Plains Conference, including an 8-0 win over previously unbeaten North Pitt.
“As I just told our guys, we just pretty much ran the gauntlet,” North Johnston coach Brian Ford said. “We just faced the three best teams in the conference, and that’s not easy to do. Plus, two of them were away – and they’re phenomenal teams.”
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Yet, the Panthers have remained tough, as Tuesdays game showed.
“Our kids didn’t panic at the end,” Ford said. “They’re kinda used to that.”
After a dominant performance by SouthWest starter Jarratt Mobley, the Panthers manufactured a run in the bottom of the seventh. Trey Whitley singled and stole second, and Dallas Krob reached on an error. Steven Worley was hit by a pitch to load the bases, and Hales rifled a single through the Cougars’ infield.
“I struggled my second at-bat because I was swinging at everything,” said Hales, who was 0-for-2 with a strikeout in his prior at-bat against Mobley. “That last at-bat, I was looking for a fastball I could put on the ground, and that’s what I got.”
They said it
“Very resilient,” Radford said of North Johnston’s penchant for winning close games. “Never give up. Always come out to play hard.”
Three to know
Dylan Radford, North Johnston: Radford matched Mobley pitch for pitch, striking out eight in six innings. He walked four and gave up three hits and a run before being lifted in the top of the seventh.
“Dylan has come a long way,” Ford said. “Mentally, Dylan has grown up this year. He’s got the physical tools, but mentally, he has really learned how to pitch: In and out, two-seam, four-seam. He proved that again tonight.”
Jarratt Mobley, SouthWest Edgecombe: The senior and UNC Pembroke commit pitched a fantastic game, giving up two singles and an unearned run through the first six innings.
“Mobley’s phenomenal,” Ford said. “As I just told our guys, ‘You probably just beat one of the best pitchers in the state.’ He’s very aggressive, tenacious, and he likes to get it and get rid of it. He disrupted our timing pretty much the whole night.”
Steven Worley, North Johnston: After Radford walked the leadoff hitter in the seventh, Worley set down the side, striking out Leaton White to end the inning and earn the eventual victory.
Radford wiggled out of a jam in the sixth thanks to a heads-up play by his catcher, Garrett Littleton. The Cougars had runners on second and third with two outs, and Radford threw a pitch in the dirt that bounced high in the air. Radford and Littleton at first didn’t see it, and Cody Fuller tried to score from third. But Littleton located the ball, turned and tagged Fuller to end the inning.
After playing the best of the conference, Ford wants his team to stay focused.
“We just can’t have a letdown,” Ford said. “That’s the thing in this conference. Every team is beatable on any given night. I really firmly believe that. We just can’t have a lapse because those other wins we’ve had earlier are for naught.”