Garner Cleveland: Sports

Garner sweeps Comets

Brighton Hudson has been making a strong case to be pitcher of the year in the Greater Neuse River 4A.

And his performance Tuesday night at Pleasant Field clearly helped that cause.

Garner’s junior southpaw pitched a two-hit complete game, improving to 5-0 on the season as the Trojans prevailed 7-3 to complete the sweep of their season series with Clayton and win their 12th straight game.

Garner won the first meeting 4-3 in extra innings on March 15.

The Trojans banged out 12 hits in Tuesday’s victory, which improved them to 14-2 overall and 7-0 in conference play. Clayton fell to 10-7 and 6-2.

“I thought we swung the bats much better than last time we played them,” Garner coach Derik Goffena said. “Getting runs up early with Brighton on the mound is key. He’s one of the better pitchers around. We feel like if we get a lead when he’s pitching, we’re in a real good place. And I liked our offensive approach.”

Putting up numbers: Hudson walked three but struck out eight and stayed out of trouble after Clayton cut the lead to 3-2 with its two-run third.

“My location was good,” said Hudson, whose fastball has topped out at 84. “I was locating fastballs inner and outside. Then I came with the curve ball, and that helped. I was able to get comfortable out there.”

What worked: Garner’s hitting.

The Trojans’ 12 hits came from eight players, four of whom had multiple-hit games. Vince Jeffries had two hits, including a double with an RBI. Cody Jones was 2-for-3 with a sacrifice fly and two RBI, and Saylon Kieft and Trever Lee each added a pair of singles. Jake Faucette doubled and walked twice in four plate appearances.

“I thought our approach was good,” said Jeffries, who has signed to play quarterback at Shaw University next season. “Coach Goffena pressed us to attack the first pitch if it’s a strike. We wanted to get in the pitcher’s head and let him know he wasn’t going to get ahead of us.”

Marshall Creech had the biggest hit for the Comets, an RBI double in the third.

What didn’t work: The gloves of either team.

Clayton got the worst of it, committing five errors to Garner’s three.

Sam May (2-3) pitched well but was only able to go five innings.

“We didn’t play defense,” Clayton coach Stacey Houser said. “We were not very good defensively tonight. You can’t give good teams run after run after run and expect to be there at the end. We’ve got to execute better defensively, and we’ve got to hit the ball better. (Hudson) did a great job keeping us off balance.”

Feeling the impact: Clayton should have no trouble qualifying for the state playoffs but would now need a miracle to pass the Trojans for the conference title.

Garner has a two-game lead plus the tiebreaker because of the season sweep.

“Hudson is definitely one of the best pitchers we’ve faced, but we’ve just got to play better defense,” Creech said. “If we had, it would have been a close game. We’re a better defensive team than we showed tonight, and we’re going to have to play better defense than we did tonight to win close ballgames.”