Doing the little things added up to a big win for Cleveland’s softball team Thursday night.
The Rams came out swinging the bat, pounding out 12 hits in the game, played solid defense and got a two-hitter from Taylor Drayton to roll to an 11-1 victory over South Johnston in five innings.
“When we put everything together, we can win,” Cleveland coach Samantha Coats said. “When we have the bats going and good defense we can win. We have had some games where we had been missing one of those two things. But when you pull those things together, it makes a big difference.
“I told the girls it’s the little things that matter. We weren’t doing those little things. Today they came out ready to play and the result was a win.”
Cleveland snapped a two-game losing streak in the Two Rivers 3A Conference, improving to 2-2 in the league and 5-4 overall. South Johnston dropped to 1-3 and 4-6.
Drayton, a junior wearing a brace on her right knee as she continues to recover from ACL surgery on her knee last summer, had some control problems but kept the Trojans at bay. She struck out four and walked three.
South Johnston’s lone run came in the second inning when Drayton walked Sarah Pierce with two outs and then threw three wild pitches to the next batter – Reagan Byrd – that allowed Pierce to come all the way home, one base at a time, on the wild pitches.
“This is her third full game back pitching,” Coats said of Drayton. “She is doing an awesome job. She is pushing herself through that (recovery from the surgery). She does her best and as long as she stays focused she is good to go.”
The middle of the Rams’ batting order produced in a big way.
No. 3 hitter Julia Wiggs and cleanup hitter Alliyah Sands each drove in three runs – slapping back-to-back two-run doubles in the Rams’ six-run fifth inning.
Cleveland took a 1-0 lead in the first and added three in the second to go up 4-0. Wiggs had an RBI double in the second and Sands an RBI groundout.
South Johnston starter Dinalee Spell came out of the game in the second, going just 1 1/3 innings and giving up five hits and four runs.
Sophomore Mary Ann Brown came on for Spell in the second and gave up just one run in the third inning until she was hit hard in the fifth. Lee returned with one out in the inning and got the last two outs.
The first four Rams batters reached base in the fifth, three on hits and one on an error. Drayton drove in the first run of the inning with a single, then the Trojans got a forceout at home on a groundball to third with the bases loaded.
Wiggs drove the ball off the wall in right-center to drive in a pair and Sands hit a scorcher down the left-field line that got past the Trojans’ left fielder to drive in two more. The final run of the inning scored on a groundout – giving Cleveland an 11-1 lead.
Drayton, Wiggs and Alexis Ivey had two hits each for Cleveland.
“It was just one of those nights,” South Johnston coach Amanda Smith said. “I know getting two hits isn’t going to win a ball game.”
Smith said that the Trojans talked about being patient at the plate before the game, but still swung at too many bad pitches.
“(Drayton) was throwing a lot of balls in warm-ups,” Smith said. “We chased too many pitches in the dirt and above our heads and you can’t do that with a great pitcher on the mound.”
Spring break started the day following the game and the teams headed into the break going in opposite directions.
“It may be a good thing in the end that we are going back and forth,” Smith said of the Trojans’ inconsistent season to this point. “We have stuff to improve on every day. It’s something that you have to strive for and you have to get there some way. By going backwards some, it allows you to move forward – hopefully two steps at a time instead of one.”
Cleveland will be looking to build off an impressive win.
“We had lost two conference games in a row,” Coats said. “They didn’t like the way those losses felt. Sometimes it takes a couple of losses to motivate your team and for them to know that they have to work hard.
“This is something to build on.”