When a team is on a long winning streak, getting contributions from several players is crucial. And sometimes, a team gets a little help from opponents.
That’s what happened Tuesday night as N&O No. 2 Garner extended its winning streak to 17 games in a 6-3 victory over No. 8 West Johnston. Sam Armstrong had three two-out runs batted in and Sam Weidner was effective enough on the mound for the Trojans (18-2, 11-0 Greater Neuse River Conference) to stay unbeaten in the conference.
But the Wildcats (15-4, 9-2) helped out, too, committing four errors and allowing a run on a wild pitch.
“The girls are getting a little better each game, gaining more confidence and realizing that they are pretty good,” Garner coach Moe Barbour said. “Having said that, we still haven’t done anything yet. We’ve got (West Johnston) Friday night, we’ve got the No. 3 team in the league two times next week.
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“We’ve got to keep our heads down and keep digging. Ain’t no time to start patting ourselves on the back.”
The two teams tangle again this week, at West Johnston.
“Hopefully, we’ll bring what we need to bring to get it done,” Wildcats coach Laura Jefferson said. “We just had crucial errors (tonight). We knew it was going to be close, we figured it’d be a one- or two-run game. … We struggled with our bats. Tonight was just not our night.”
Trojan designated player Sam Armstrong struck out with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the first, and she came up with runners on base and two outs in the third inning. This time, though, Armstrong laced a single to center that scored Haleigh Joyner. On the play, Libby Bynum raced home on a throwing error by Wildcat catcher Kassidy Wood.
Armstrong later had a two-out, two-run single in the sixth.
“That was big, but you know what? She has stepped up big in some other games in that same situation,” Barbour said. “She’s a DP, and she’s happy with that role. Those were two big hits, both times with two outs. Big-time players step up in big-time games, and she stepped up tonight.”
Three to know
Sam Armstrong, Garner: The sophomore has settled into her role as designated player, and she was clutch on Tuesday – especially after striking out in her first at-bat.
“Whenever I struck out, it got me fired up to want to do better the next time,” Armstrong said. “I was kinda nervous (in the third inning), but then I was like, ‘I can do this.’ I have confidence, and my teammates have confidence in me.”
Lorin Lesnicky, West Johnston: The junior left-fielder returned after missing three weeks with a broken thumb and drove in two runs with a pair of doubles.
Libby Bynum, Garner: In addition to scoring twice, Bynum ended a threat in the fourth. With runners on first and second and one away, Kaylea Eubanks hit a line drive that Bynum snagged. Bynum then alerted stepped on first base to double up Megan Mills.
West Johnston center-fielder Rylee Wheeler made a terrific catch on Ashton Harris’ hard-hit ball in the fifth, running to her right and robbing Harris of a double.
By the numbers
10: Strikeouts for Mills. Three of them came in the first after Garner had loaded the bases.
3: Hits for Trojan leadoff hitter Kira Jackson. She scored two runs, too.
They said it
The Trojans’ dugout was loud throughout the game, chanting and cheering for seven innings.
“The one who always starts the cheers is Krissy D’Arco,” Armstrong said. “She’s the loudest. She has the loudest mouth on the team – I mean that in a good way,”
Weidner, a right-hander, struck out only one batter, but she kept West Johnston off-balance with an effective change-up. Weidner gave up eight hits and two runs – but surrendered only one walk.
The Trojans don’t have a dominant pitcher, Barbour said, “But they pitch with confidence because they trust the defense behind them.”
“We know, especially in games like this, there are 21 outs,” Barbour said. “We’re going to have to make about 18 of them. When you don’t have a dominant pitcher, you’ve got to play good defense and score some runs – and that’s what our combination has been.”