Visiting West Johnston took the early lead, but South Johnston rallied to take a 5-2 Greater Neuse 3-A Conference varsity softball win on Monday.
“I thought West Johnston came out with a good approach and a good attitude,” said South Johnston coach Ashley Ennis. “They battled and made it hard. Their pitcher, (Ivy) Maldonado did a much better job keeping us off balance (South won 11-0 at West on Tuesday) and making us pop the ball up a lot more tonight. But we fought, we hung in and we kind of made some adjustments that got us some timely hits when we needed them. We ran the bases pretty good at times. We got some good bunts down to help us score. Overall, we played good defense. We did what we needed to do and got some timely hits against a pretty good team.”
Senior Carmen Keene pitched six innings to take the win in the circle for the Trojans (6-3, 3-0 GNC), giving up two earned runs on four hits and no walks, with five strikeouts. Freshman Kennedy Byrd pitched a perfect seventh inning, including one strikeout, to record the save.
“Carmen did a fantastic job for six innings and then Kennedy came in and gave them something a little different, a little harder to shut them down and get the save for us,” Ennis said.
Senior Ivy Maldonado went the distance for the Wildcats (6-4, 2-2), yielding four earned runs on 10 hits and three walks, with one strikeout.
“I think she did a good job of kind of getting us to just miss the ball a little bit,” Ennis said. “We didn’t hit it solid. That’s a credit to their coaching and their pitcher doing a good job tonight and adjusting. We hit the ball hard the last time we played them and they came out with a better plan.”
A trio of juniors led South at the plate. Nikki Lee had two hits and two RBIs, Katie Mitchell had two hits, one RBI and one run scored and Kyndal Woodard had two hits and one run scored.
Tori James had one hit, one RBI and one run scored. Kylie Lee had a double and two runs scored. Keene and Emma Jernigan had one hit apiece.
“Nikki Lee had a pretty big hit and the bottom (of the batting order) kept getting on base and came up with some big hits,” Ennis said. “The top of the lineup was struggling a little bit, but the bottom had some big hits.”
Kaitlyn Tucker had two hits and one run scored, Savannah Craft had a home run, two RBIs and a run scored and Chloe Milliron had one hit for West.
West jumped out to an early lead when Tucker doubled with two out in the top of the first inning and Craft followed with a home run.
South got on the board in the bottom of the first when Mitchell led off with a base hit, advanced all the way to third on a Kandis Adams sacrifice and scored on an error.
In the bottom of the fourth, Kylie Lee drew a walk, Woodard singled and James walked to load the bases with one out before Nikki Lee drove in Kylie Lee and Woodard with a base hit to give the Trojans a 3-2 lead.
“Nikki Lee had a big hit to give us the lead,” Ennis said. “That was crucial in that situation. Credit to Kyndal and Kylie for getting on base in front of her and giving her an opportunity to come through.”
Kylie Lee doubled to lead off the bottom of the sixth, took third on a wild pitch and scored on a base hit from James. Nikki Lee and Jernigan loaded the bases with back-to-back base hits before James scored on a ground ball from Mitchell.
South retired West in order in the top of the seventh to end the game.
Monday’s game was the first of three games in three days for South Johnston. The Trojans host conference foe Smithfield-Selma on Tuesday before traveling to Smithfield-Selma on Wednesday.
“We’ve got to do what we do,” Ennis said. “We’ve got to have a good approach at the plate and we’ve got to play South Johnston softball. We can’t worry about who the opponent is. It’s just the next one. We’ve got to come out ready to play, no matter who it is. We want to stay in the hunt and control our destiny as long as we can. As long as we keep winning in conference, the ball is kind of in our court. We’ve still got some tough conference games to come and we’ve just got to keep getting better.”