Monday brings us second round action in the prep baseball touranment, the Johnston County Easter Invitational at South Johnston High School. We're recapping each game here after they end.
Game 7 & 8 Semifinals
Smithfield-Selma 3, West Johnston 1
Middle Creek 3, Clayton 1 (10)
Smithfield-Selma went to its proven road combination of Ben Youngblood and Blake Mitchell on the mound Monday night in the semifinals of the Johnston County Easter Invitational against defending champion West Johnston.
The senior duo came through again with Youngblood moving to 6-0 on the season on the mound and Mitchell converting his seventh save opportunity in as many attempts in a 3-1 victory over the Wildcats.
The Spartans (11-3) will meet Middle Creek (11-4) in tonight’s championship game at 7:30 back at South Johnston High’s Bruce Coats Field.
Youngblood held the Wildcats, who beat SSS earlier this season, to four hits in seven innings of work. It was the right-hander’s fourth straight win on the road.
“I try to stick to the same game plan each time out,” Youngblood said. “I have three pitches that are usually decent, fastball, curveball and change up. If one of them is off, it’s just a matter of mixing things up and keeping batters off balance.”
All of SSS’s offense came in the second inning on four hits that didn’t make it out of the infield. T.J. Brown reached on an error to start the inning, then with one out both Alex Sellers and Drew Mustgrave reached on bunt singles. Brown scored on Mustgrave’s hit and Sellers came home on Aldarius Parker’s infield hit. Mustgrave would score on a fielder’s choice later in the inning.
“We had good approaches at the plate tonight for the most part,” said SSS coach Mike Joyner. “We played small ball and the guys did a good job of getting the bunts down, hustling out some hits. From there it was just solid pitching and defense, which have been our strongest points this season.”
West scored in the sixth when Trey Lee walked and later scored on a Spartan error.
The Wildcats loaded the bases with two outs against Mitchell in the top of the seventh but he got a fly ball out to send the Spartans into the title game.
Middle Creek broke through in the 10th against Clayton to earn a trip to the championship game. Jordan Towler walked, then moved to second on a wild pitch.
The Comets (8-4) got outs on the next two batters, but Keenan Herring doubled to the gap in left-center field to score Towler.
Jimmy Boyd followed with another two-out RBI hit to up the lead to 3-1.
The runs were the first scored since Graham Edwards singled home a run for the Mustangs in the fourth.
Clayton totaled 12 hits on the night, but had three runners thrown out on outfield relays. David Salmon gunned down a runner at third from right field in the first.
In the third, Brett Bailey doubled for Clayton and Will Green drove another double into the left-center gap. But the relay from Blake Hunley in left to shortstop Diego Guerrero at short to catcher Austin Parker beat Bailey home.
“They made great plays, “said Clayton coach Stacey Houser. “We’re not going to change the way we play; we’re going to stay aggressive on the bases. If they make those types of plays, you just tip your cap to them.”
In the bottom of the seventh with the score tied at 1, Green doubled. Two batters later, Brett Clark drove a ball to the right field fence.
But Salmon calmly ran the ball down, threw to second baseman Colin Pelosi in short right field who darted a throw home to Parker just in time to tag Green out and keep the game going.
“We hit the cutoff guys and made the throws, just like we practice on a daily basis,” said Middle Creek coach Jeremy Thompson. “It gets different when you have to do it during a game. To do it three times in one game is something you don’t expect to have to do.”
The win continued a busy five-day stretch of baseball for the Mustangs who have played 34 innings of baseball, including three extra-inning games since Wednesday.
Sal Savarese, who worked his way up the Middle Creek pitching rotation with a 5-0 shutout of Tri-Nine rival Apex, and Clayton’s Phillips, who threw a no-hitter last week against Smithfield-Selma, both pitched solidly, but gave way to Towler and Clark, respectively, in the later innings.
Game 6 – Consolation
South Johnston 7, Corinth Holders 1
Lane Johnson became the second Johnson to notch a complete-game victory on the mound as the host Trojans topped their Johnston County rvivals.
Johnson held the Pirates to four hits despite striking out just two batters on the afternoon.
South Johnston put together a pair of multiple-run innings. In the third, Reid Barefoot singled in Bailey Coe for the game’s first run. Will Raynor followed with a two-run double to center.
Raynor was 2-for-4 on the afternoon, while Barefoot went 2-for-2.
In the sixth, Singles by Barefoot, Raynor and a hit batsman in the form of Austin Lee loaded the bases for Will Dupree who singled in two runs. Chris Crumity and Dupree later scored in the inning as well.
Corinth Holders got on the board in the seventh. Singles by Brock Waynick and Vojta Velecky and a walk to Cameron Brewer loaded the bases for Kensley Perry, who was hit by a pitch, forcing Waynick home.
Waynick went 2-for-3 on the afternoon.
Game 5 – Consolation
Rocky Mount 5, Cleveland 2
Rocky Mount lefty Jeremy Johnson worked a complete-game three-hitter as the Gryphons won Monday’s opener at Bruce Coats Field.
Johnson was also 3-for-4 at the plate. He doubled, then scored the game’s first run in the opening inning. Micah Varnell scored in the second to put Rocky Mount up 2-0.
Cleveland tied the game in the fourth on RBI singles from Ernie Chapman and Chris Bjorling.
The Gryphons came back with a run in the fourth as Damien Smith singled, moved around on a Johnson single and then scored on Andy Morris’ groundout.
Spenser Ramsey homered to start the fifth for Rocky Mount, then Varnell later scored in the frame for the game’s final run.
Semifinal No. 1: Middle Creeek vs. Clayton