Garner Cleveland: Sports

Garner finds its power stroke

Garner softball coach Moe Barbour must have had a premonition before the Trojans took on West Johnston in a crucial Greater Neuse River 4A Conference game.

“We were in the (batting) cage today and I told one of my coaches, ‘You know I’m a little surprised that we haven’t dropped any bombs this year,’” Barbour said after his team’s 8-4 victory over the Wildcats Tuesday. The Trojans took care of that zero in the home run column against the Wildcats, hitting a pair of homers in a five-run third inning to erase a 2-0 deficit.

Freshman Alisha Josie led off the inning with a shot to straightaway center field. Senior Maddy Stewart, who is headed to UNC-Wilmington to play softball next year, clubbed a long three-run homer over the left-field wall one out later.

“I’m usually more of a base-hit hitter,” Stewart said. “I am going to UNCW next year and have been lifting weights and that has helped out a lot. This was a big (homer) for me.”

The Trojans (6-0, 4-0 Greater Neuse River) stood alone at the top of the conference after the victory, with wins over its three toughest rivals (Clayton at home and East Wake and West Johnston on the road) as the conference season neared its halfway point.

“I’m happy to get the win,” Barbour said. “We’ve been through the toughest part of the schedule so far with Clayton, East Wake and West Johnston. This thing is a long way from over. All three of those clubs have quality ball teams and all three have quality pitchers.

“It’s a good feeling to be 3-0 against those three. When we go around again, two of those three will be at home. I told our girls we’re not playing for just a conference championship. We are playing to be playing at home in the playoffs. That is our goal every year.”

West Johnston (4-2, 4-1) came right back after Garner’s five-run top of the third, scoring a pair of runs in the bottom of the inning to make it 5-4.

It stayed that way until the seventh when Garner scored three insurance runs.

“(West Johnston) swings the bat,” Barbour said. “They had their 3-4-5 hitters coming up. I wanted to do anything I could just to scratch out one in the seventh. To get three, I was tickled to death. With a one-run lead, you get a runner on first, anything can happen.”

In the seventh, Brooke Kamphuis got her second hit of the game with one out and went to second on a wild pitch. With two out, she scored from second on a single in the hole between shortstop and third, never hesitating to head home when the throw went toward first. Trojans pitcher Lauren Marbrey just beat the throw, and the Trojans were up 6-4. Alyssa D’Arco then drove in Marbrey with a double and scored on an infield error on a ground ball by Kelsey Bryan.

“They swung the bats and we made a few errors,” West Johnston coach Warren Singleton said. “They got a couple of hits across the fence. I’m OK with that but the errors we made put them in position to get some other runs.

“We’ll play them again and we’ll have something for them. I plan to go .500 against them. This one is behind us. We are looking forward to the next matchup.”

West got three hits each from Megan Gibbons and Amber West. D’Arco had three hits for the Trojans and Kamphuis, Bryan and Shea Barbour had two hits each.