Some early big hits and some big defensive plays late led Western Harnett to a 6-4 varsity baseball win over Cleveland in the opening round of the Johnston County Easter Invitational at South Johnston on Saturday.
“A huge win,” said Western coach Dalton Hardee. “We struggled this week against some tough teams. We finally started playing a little bit better. Cleveland battled us. They’re a really good team. We swung the bats well early. (Bradley) Wilson had a big home run for us. We jumped on them early, which is what we’re trying to do. We’ve just got to keep adding on to it as the game gets later.”
Wilson, a junior right-hander, went the distance to pick up the win for the Eagles (8-8), giving up three earned runs on six hits and three walks, with eight strikeouts. He also led at the plate with two hits, including a home run, two RBIs and a run scored.
Josh Carter had one hit, one RBI and one run scored. Trevor Deszo had one hit and one RBI. Andrew Kelly and Collin Welch each had a double and a run scored. Caleb Scott and Devonte Sanders scored one run apiece.
Western scored one run each in the second, fourth and seventh innings and three in the third. The Rams (4-7) scored three in the fifth and one in the sixth.
Two critical plays at the plate in the sixth and seventh innings helped the Eagles to protect the lead. In the sixth, Deszo, the center fielder, made a catch for an out and threw home to catch a runner trying to score from third. In the seventh, Scott, the right fielder, threw out a runner trying to score from second on a base hit.
“Our outfielders made good throws and our catchers made great plays at the plate,” Hardee said.
Western Harnett will play Wake Forest (8-4) in the second round of the tournament and Cleveland will meet host South Johnston (6-5) in the consolation bracket Monday.
“We’ve just got to keep playing the way we want to play,” Hardee said. “We’ve got to make the routine plays. When we make the routine plays, we’re tough.”
JOHNSTON COUNTY EASTER INVITATIONAL
Bunn 19, Smithfield-Selma 2
Clayton 6, Triton 4
Western Harnett 6, Cleveland 4
Wake Forest 4, South Johnston 2
Noon — Smithfield-Selma 11, Triton 6
2:30 p.m. — Cleveland 8, South Johnston 6 (8 innings)
5 p.m. — Bunn 7, Clayton 0
7:30 p.m. — Wake Forest 11, Western Harnett 1 (6 innings)
Noon — South Johnston vs. Triton
2:30 p.m. — Cleveland vs. Smithfield-Selma
5 p.m. — Clayton vs. Western Harnett
7:30 p.m. — Championship, Bunn vs. Wake Forest