Garner Cleveland: Sports

Johnston County takes advantage of all its chances

Apex Post 124 has been done in by the proverbial big inning all season long.

As Apex played host to Johnston County Post 71 Sunday night, the same familiar theme reared its ugly head but in even worse fashion as the Sabres put together three such innings to down Post 124 by a score of 18-3.

Johnston County used a four-hit effort in the third inning to post five runs to take a 6-1 lead, a three-hit effort in the sixth to stretch the lead by four more runs before exploding for eight runs in the seventh to effectively put the game away.

“Our big thing has been (giving up) the big inning,” Post 124 coach Tim Harrell said. “It’s a little bit of an adjustment that when these guys who have not done it before, even though they’re going on to play college ball, that they don’t have their best stuff, sometimes they just have to work through it.”

Justin Carroll, Brett Clark, Jack Sherrill and Ben Youngblood all singled in the third to make Post 124 pay for a pair of walks as the Sabres forced Apex to go to the bullpen earlier than it wanted.

“We kept talking about grinding out the at bats, grinding out the at bats and we always try to get to the opposing team’s bullpen as fast as we can,” said Post 71 coach Stephen Nordan. “We drew a few walks early, they made a few mistakes and we capitalized.”

Alex Yarem turned in a nice three-hit performance at the plate for Post 124 as he, Jordan Hockaday and Jeff Pegram all drove in runs.

But Apex (2-11, 1-6) could not match the firepower displayed by the Sabres’ bats as the visitors continued to pound out the hits.

Clark and Youngblood each had two-run scoring base hits in the sixth before Post 71 sent 12 batters to the plate in the eight-run seventh that was capped off by a bases loaded triple from Sherrill.

The offensive output helped Johnston County (8-4, 4-0) starting pitcher Lane Johnson earn the win despite not having his best stuff.

“Even though he didn’t have his best stuff tonight, he’s a competitor,” Nordan said of the recent South Johnston graduate. “Any time you’ve got a guy like that on the mound, he’s going to compete and fight through it.

“He got us to the point we needed to be.”

Johnson finished his night allowing three runs on nine hits in six innings of work before Cody Johnson was called upon for mop-up duty in the seventh.

Clark and Sherrill both finished their nights with three hits apiece for Post 71.

“We’ve really struggled to go from a top-eight team in the state last year to this year winning only two games,” Harrell said of his club who lost many players from last year’s Area I West championship team. “We don’t really have the chance to make the playoffs so what I really hope is that they use this as a chance to work on their game.”