South Johnston opened its varsity baseball and softball season with a pair of 5-2 wins on the road against rival Triton.
Timely hitting and strong pitching and defense were the key factors as South Johnston took a 5-2 win over Triton in softball.
“I thought we came out ready to play,” said South Johnston softball coach Ashley Ennis. “We focused on what we were trying to do and had a pretty good approach at the plate. We put the ball in play. They came ready to play, too. They got a big, timely hit and took the lead. I thought we scratched back to tie it up and went ahead the next inning and then Kennedy (Byrd) got all of one. We had runners on base and were searching for that timely hit early. And then third, fourth, fifth, whatever it was, we finally got that hit.”
Triton softball coach Mark Whitman said Triton struggled to find consistency at the plate.
“Roo (Kennedy Byrd) pitched a real good game tonight,” Whitman said. “You can’t take it away from her, she pitched outstanding. We just didn’t make contact. We didn’t hit when we needed to hit. First game of the season. We’re going to get better. We won’t see pitching like that through our conference. That’s why I schedule these games. I told our girls, ‘If we’re going to get beat, we’re going to get beat by good teams. I don’t schedule any powder puff games.’ We’ve just got to get a little more consistent at-bats. I’m still working out a lot of kinks in how I make the lineup. I saw a lot of positives tonight of what I need to adjust.”
Sophomore Kennedy Byrd pitched the complete game win for the Trojans (1-0), giving up two earned runs on four hits, two walks and one hit batter, with 10 strikeouts.
“Kennedy pitched a heck of a game,” Ennis said. “Because Triton’s got some great hitters and she navigated their lineup pretty well.”
Junior Gracyn Slaughter was the pitcher of record for the Hawks (0-1). In three innings of relief, she gave up three earned runs on five hits and one walk, with one strikeout. Starter Caroline Marshall pitched four innings in a no decision, yielding one earned run on five hits and three walks, with two strikeouts.
Freshman Meagan Worley had a strong debut for South, going 3-for-4, with one RBI and one run scored, to lead the Trojans at the plate.
“We’re real proud of these young girls,” Ennis said. “We’ve got a lot of young girls. We’ve got some seniors that are our leaders, but these young girls, they’ve got to step up and pitch in. Meagan’s been a real good surprise. She’s a solid softball player.
Katie Mitchell and Kylie Lee each had two hits and one run scored. Kennedy Byrd had a two-run home run. Kyndal Woodard had a double, one RBI and one run scored. Tori James had one hit.
Senior Jada Horne had two hits, including a double, and one run scored to lead the Hawks (0-1).
Kaila Cooney had one hit and two RBIs. Gracie Byrd had one hit. Kimah Warren scored once.
South was the first team on the board when Woodard scored when James reached on an error in the top of the third inning.
Triton responded in the bottom of the third when a bases-loaded hit from Cooney scored Horne and Warren to give the Hawks a 2-1 lead.
South tied the game in the fourth when Worley singled, advanced on a ground ball from Katon Blackmon and scored on a Woodard double.
After scoring the tying run in the fourth, Worley drove in the go-ahead run one inning later, bringing Lee home with a base hit.
South added two more in the top of the sixth. With two out, Mitchell singled and Kennedy Byrd followed with a two-run blast over the center field fence.
Horne’s second base hit gave Triton a base runner in the seventh, but South retired the next two batters to end the game.
A pair of big hits made the difference as South Johnston took a 5-2 baseball win over Triton.
“We’ve started off slow the past few years and we’ve kind of made that a focus this year,” said South Johnston baseball coach Aaron Parnell. “We wanted to be a little more prepared coming into game. That’s what it came down to tonight. These guys liked like they came to play and ready to win.”
Triton baseball coach Jacob Willis said the Hawks’ approach at the plate improved as the game went on.
“The boys battled,” Willis said. “That was a good ball team. That pitcher (Justin Hamilton) was an extremely good pitcher. A lot of movement. Threw hard. Our approaches got better as the night went on. We played hard and we battled. There’s a lot of stuff we can improve on, but that’s a part of it.”
Senior starter Justin Hamilton was the winning pitcher for the Trojans (1-0), giving up no earned runs on no hits, three walks and two hit batters, with 11 strikeouts. Kannon Crumpler pitched two innings, giving up one earned run on four hits, three walks and one hit batter. Dewayne Schneider pitched a perfect one and one-third innings, including one strikeout.
“With Justin Hamilton going out on the mound and starting out, he was pretty much automatic in the strike zone,” Parnell said. “He was leading out first pitch strikes. He pretty much established the strike zone for the umpire. He hit his spots in the same locations and he was great for us. Moving forward, I feel like that’s going to be an emphasis for our arms. Kannon came in and did the same and Dewayne comes in, throws one pitch and he’s out of the inning. We feel like our defense is good, so if we can keep pitching the ball, we’re going to bank on those two big-time hits every night.”
Junior Parker Wood had two hits and junior Chase Carroll had a two-run home run to lead South at the plate.
Ethan Weaver and A.J. Byrd had one hit apiece. Christian Pollard and Cole Winborne scored two runs apiece.
Dalen Thompson had one hit and one run scored, Sam Capps, Payden Crews and Ethan Hedgepeth had one hit apiece and Spencer Johnson scored once for the Hawks (0-1).
South jumped out to a 2-0 lead on a two-run home run from Carroll in the top of the third inning.
Triton responded with a score in the fourth, but South scored again in the fifth and pushed the lead to four when a base hit from Wood drove in Pollard and Winborne in the sixth.
Thompson scored for Triton in the bottom of the sixth on a hard-hit ball from Crews that struck Crumpler on the foot.
Crumpler was replaced on the mound by Schneider, who needed just one pitch to get out of the inning with a pop-up to shortstop Dylan Bates and then retired the side in order in the seventh to end the game.
Weather permitting, South Johnston is at home against Harnett Central in baseball and softball and Triton travels to Clayton for softball on Thursday. South is at Corinth Holders for softball and Triton is at home against Lee County in baseball and softball to start Tri-County Six 3-A Conference play on Friday.