A 10-run fourth inning powered South Johnston to a 13-2 varsity baseball win in five innings at Harnett Central on Wednesday.
“Both guys (South’s Aubrey Pollard and Central’s Matthew Bailey) came out throwing the ball well and early in the game we put a run up there in the first inning,” said South Johnston coach Aaron Parnell. “We were just executing, getting guys on, hitting behind them, doing all the things we had to do to get the early. Then at the end we had a couple of plays that went our way and the bats followed.”
Harnett Central coach Lance Honeycutt said big innings were a common trend in Central’s losses.
“Right now, the big inning is beating us,” coach Honeycutt said. “We talked about, I preach this, ‘Crooked numbers kill.’ The way we consider it to be a crooked number is as obvious as it sounds, if it’s above one, it’s not a good inning. Our issue right now, and I take full responsibility for this, is our pitching. For me to have been a pitcher at the collegiate level and for our guys to come out here and not at least compete on the mound, I take that to heart. I think right now, that’s our reasoning, because when we can’t pitch, everything else sort of comes with it. The big inning is off of a walk or a hit batter.
“We’re not hitting the ball and our pitchers are not as mentally prepared as they need to be and I take full credit for that. These guys are going to work. They’re hungry. And I have some younger guys that are probably going to come up and take some places if they’re not careful. It’s not that our guys aren’t trying. I’m not being with them enough in the bullpen, so we’re going to fix that real quick.”
Senior Aubrey Pollard pitched the complete game win for the visiting Trojans (1-1), giving up one earned run on five hits and one walk, with 12 strikeouts.
“He’s been great,” Parnell said. “This is our second game and he’s started both of them. He’s been just as sharp in both of them. He’s going out there and attacking hitters. He’s getting in the strike zone early in counts. He’s outstanding right now. Aubrey’s setting the tone. He’s setting the tone for our defense by throwing strikes. He’s setting the tone for the other pitchers that are going to follow him from the bullpen or the other games that they start. He’s just kind of setting the pace for all of our pitching staff and our defense.”
Senior Ben Stafford led South at the plate with two hits, including a double, four RBIs and two runs scored.
Aubrey Pollard had two hits, one RBI and one run scored. Ethan Weaver had one hit, two RBIs and two runs scored. Jackson Raynor had a double, two RBIs and one run scored. Josh Parker had one hit, two RBIs and one run scored. Patrick Allen and David Honeycutt each had one hit and one run scored. Christian Pollard had one hit. Jacob Norris had two runs scored. Jaequan Wells scored once.
Jared Raynor had two hits, including a home run, one RBI and one run scored to lead the homestanding Trojans (0-4).
Johnny Grizzard had a double and a run scored and Matthew Bailey and Justin Perkins had one hit apiece.
South took an early lead when Norris was hit by a pitch to lead off the game, advanced on a Weaver sacrifice and scored on a base hit from Aubrey Pollard.
Weaver added another run in the top of the third, scoring on a sacrifice fly from Parker.
Central got on the board in the bottom of the third when Grizzard doubled, took third on an error and scored on a double steal with Bailey, who had reached on a walk.
Stafford walked, advanced on a David Honeycutt sacrifice and a Christian Pollard single and scored on an error in the top of the fourth.
Central answered in the bottom of the fourth with a lead-off home run from Jared Raynor.
But South broke the game open in the fifth inning, scoring 10 runs on six hits, two errors, three walks and a hit batter, putting the 10-run rule into effect.
“They (Central’s players) have a lot of pride and they want to win,” coach Honeycutt said. “I think the attitude’s just got to be a little bit different when it comes to facing adversity. It’s not that they can’t handle adversity, it’s just that when it hits, it hits hard and they struggle to cope with it at times.”
South Johnston is at Cardinal Gibbons (1-1) on Friday. Harnett Central hosts Gray’s Creek (2-0) on Monday.
“We’ve got a long ways to go,” coach Honeycutt said. “By no means did I think we were going to be peaking fourth game of the year. By no means did I think we were going to get 10-run ruled twice within our first four games. It’s a process. I’m not saying that we’re going to reinvent the wheel, but we’re going to go out there and we’re going to spin it until it’s dull.”