Brighton Hudson befuddled West Johnston’s batters for the second time this season Thursday night, as the Garner Trojans won their 16th straight baseball game and moved one step closer to the Greater Neuse River 4A Conference championship in a 4-0 victory over the Wildcats.
What Worked: Hudson’s pitching kept the Wildcats guessing. He surrendered four hits and gave up only two walks, all while striking out seven batters. He improved to 6-0 this season with the complete-game shutout.
Hudson had allowed only one hit in a 4-0 victory over the Wildcats on March 26 in Benson.
Garner’s aggressiveness at the plate and on the basepaths allowed the Trojans to steal three bases, forcing West Johnston into several unadvised throws.
Defense at times helped the Wildcats. West threw one base runner out at the plate and turned two double plays, including one with the bases loaded in the fifth inning. This gave the Wildcats a reasonable chance to get back into the game.
What Didn’t Work: While the defense allowed the Wildcats to stay in the game in the latter innings, it also had a big hand in leading to West’s downfall.
The Wildcats committed five errors, with only one leading to a run. But several wild, unadvised throws, while not errors, enabled the Trojans runners to gain extra bases and move into scoring position.
“I don’t know if it was whether our guys were pressing,” said Wildcats coach Mike Jacobs, “or if it were the bright lights surrounding the game. I thought they were ready to play when we left the school to come over here and when we took the field, but I guess I was wrong.”
The Wildcats were never able to get around Hudson. They put together a two-out, two-hit rally against him in the top of the fourth inning; that was squelched with a Hudson strikeout.
“I told our guys, you can’t let any pitcher get started (in a rhythm),” Jacobs said. “We looked somewhat deflated against him all night.”
Inside the Box score: Garner’s Carrington Alston enjoyed a 2-for-4 night in being the only player to gain multiple hits. Jake Faucette and Vince Jeffries each stole a base, leading to respective runs; Trever Lee doubled for Garner in a nine-hit attack.
Losing pitcher Kessler Sorrell struck out four batters; he walked two and surrendered eight hits and four runs.
What it Means: Garner improved to 18-2 overall and 11-0 in the GNRC. They are ranked No. 1 in the N&O area poll and have Knightdale, Southeast Raleigh and Harnett Central remaining on their conference schedule.
The Trojans need to win one game against any of those opponents to clinch the conference’s No. 1 playoff seed and a share of the championship.
Two wins in those games give the Trojans the outright league championship.
West Johnston, which slipped to 11-8, 7-4, is likely assured of the postseason, but still controls its destiny.
Settled in third place, two games behind Clayton in the loss column, the Wildcats can finish anywhere from second to fifth in the conference standings.