A 3-run homer in the top of the seventh inning from senior Le’Onna Nelson lifted Princeton to a 4-2 varsity softball win at South Johnston on Thursday night.
“We played well enough to win,” said South Johnston coach Ashley Ennis. “We had the lead and they came back and tied it. We answered back the next inning. I’m glad to see that. And then they got the timely hit that we didn’t, because we left a lot of people on base tonight (nine total).
“(Nelson) hit a good pitch and she got all of the ball. They’re always tough, but we played well. We played well enough to win, but we didn’t get the hits when we needed them. We need to put more than two runs on the board.”
Junior Kennedy Byrd pitched the complete game for the Trojans (2-2), yielding four earned runs on nine hits, two walks and one hit batter, with six strikeouts.
Sophomore Meadow Joyce recorded the win for the Bulldogs (3-0), giving up one earned run on five hits and two walks across four innings of relief. Senior Gracelyn Massey started the game and pitched three innings before leaving the game with a back injury, allowing one earned run on three hits and three walks, with four strikeouts.
“We needed to see that pitching,” Ennis said. “We needed to see Gracelyn, that kind of speed and velocity we’ve not really seen. And (Joyce) kept us off balance. We were out front and we’ve got to do a better job to adjust at the plate.”
Sophomore Hollyn Champagne had three hits, including a double, to lead South at the plate.
Byrd had one hit and one RBI. Allie Stewart had one hit and one run scored. Kealey Wade, Kylie Lee and Katon Blackmon had one hit apiece. Hannah Beasley had one RBI. Emma Cashwell had one run scored.
Sophomore Minnie Johnson had two hits, freshman Kaydon Roberson had one hit and two runs scored and Nelson had a home run and four RBIs to lead Princeton.
Ennis said the defensive play of Princeton senior centerfielder Meredith Wooten was a major factor in the game.
“She caught everything that was hit near her from left-center to right-center,” Ennis said. “I don’t think anything dropped in front of her. I think she caught it all.”
South scored in the bottom of the first inning when Cashwell drew a walk, advanced on a base hit from Champagne and scored on a base hit from Byrd.
Princeton tied the game in the top of the sixth when Roberson led off with a base hit, advanced on a stolen base and a base hit from Joyce and scored by beating the throw home when Nelson hit into a fielder’s choice.
South reclaimed the lead in the bottom of the sixth. Stewart, Blackmon and Lee each had a base hit to load the bases and Stewart scored on a sacrifice fly from Beasley.
Wooten had a hit and Roberson was hit by a pitch in the top of the seventh. With Princeton down to its final out, Nelson cleared the left field fence for a three-run home run to put the Bulldogs in front. The Bulldogs retired the side in order in the bottom of the seventh to end the game.
South Johnston starts Greater Neuse 3-A Conference play at home against Johnston County rival Clayton on Tuesday.
“Defensively, we’ve gotten a lot better this week,” Ennis said. “And that’s kind of what we needed to get better at from last week. We’ve got to keep working on hitting the ball. It’s always going to keep coming down to which team hits the ball at the right time.”