West Johnston was definitely ready for its baseball rematch with Garner.
Tyler Tilson cracked his fourth homer of the season and Thomas Coggburn was solid for six innings as the Wildcats rolled to a 9-3 win in their battle for first place in Greater Neuse River 4A Conference action on a mild Tuesday night.
The win improved the Wildcats to 11-4, 8-1 in conference play while Garner fell to 9-6 and 7-2.
Garner had won the teams’ first meeting of the season 4-1 in eight innings on St. Patrick’s Day in Benson.
“The guys were resilient and played hard,” West coach Joey Worley said. “We’ve had a little hangover since we played them last time. We know were better than we were that night, and we felt we had something to show.
“We didn’t have to say a thing after we got a lead and then Garner tied the score tonight. That’s the first time (Coggburn) has gone over five innings all year, and he kept his pitch count down and threw strikes. I was proud of the way we played.”
Coggburn (4-0) allowed just two hits and two earned runs, striking out 10 against five walks in his longest outing of the season. Dalton Mundy pitched a scoreless ninth for the Wildcats.
Garner starter Nick Phillips (0-2) went 3 2/3 and gave up six runs, four earned on seven hits with three walks and no strikeouts.
“(Coggburn) did everything well,” Garner coach Derik Goffena said. “His velocity was good and he was able to get his curveball over for strikes. They were just better than us in all phases tonight.
“We’re one game back, and both of us have some tough teams to play. I told our guys that if I’d known before the season we’d still be battling for first this late in the season I would have been pretty happy.”
Sterling Atkinson had three hits including a two-run double for West, while Garrett Giddens added a pair of hits with an RBI and Noah Liles an RBI double.
West struck with a pair of runs in the first. Tony Mack led off by reaching on an error and advanced on Michael Blevins’ one-out fielder’s choice ball to short followed by Atkinson’s two-run double to left.
The Wildcats tacked on another in the second, as Dalton List led off with a single and scored on Giddons’ one-out single to right.
Garner scratched out three runs to tie in the third.
After Logan Torruella was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning, Trevor Blalock singled to right. Jack Elliott followed with an infield single to third to load the bases before Cody Jones picked up an RBI with a grounder to short with Blalock scoring on the throwing error. Kameron Harris then tied it on an RBI grounder to short.
“That’s about as well as I’ve pitched,” said Coggburn, who will play at Brunswick Community College next season. “I knew we could do it tonight. We needed to hit the ball, and we did. We played defense really well and stayed in the game.
“I knew after they tied it I just needed to stay focused and throw strikes. We’re going to hit the ball.”
And the Wildcats took it to 6-3 in the fourth, when Tilson blasted a two-out, three-run homer to right after Giddons had drawn a one-out walk and Mack followed with a single.
“He threw me a changeup and I got a little out front of it,” said Tilson, who is headed to UNC Pembroke next season. “I’ve worked on some mechanics with my swing and it’s gotten better.
“We weren’t down after they tied the score. We knew we just had to keep hitting the ball.”
West tacked on three more in the fifth on an RBI double from Liles and a two-run single from Blevins.
“We just didn’t concentrate and make routine plays tonight,” Garner catcher Noah Kieft said. “Their starter was good, but we should have hit him better. We need to come together more and hustle more.”