SMITHFIELD — Six games into his high school baseball career, Austin Blackman already has a moment he will never forget.
Blackman, a freshman outfielder, belted a third-inning grand slam to power Smithfield-Selma to a 10-1 nonconference baseball victory over North Johnston on Friday night.
The Spartans (3-3) were up 4-1 when Blackman stepped to the plate with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the third inning. He drove a 1-2 fastball over the fence in left field to cap a six-run inning that blew the game open.
“I fouled the pitch off before that and I got his speed down and on the next pitch I just squared up and took it out of here,” said Blackman, who was swarmed by his teammates as he crossed the plate. “I thought it was either going to hit the fence or one-hop the fence but after I got around first and looked at it and the left fielder coming back in, I knew I had got hold of it.
“It was my first high school home run. It’s a moment I’ll always cherish. … But it’s not about me. It’s about the team. Everybody did their part tonight and that’s why we got the win.”
There were plenty of bright spots for the Spartans, who had eight hits – including two from Blackman and one each from fellow freshmen Charlie Horne and Henry Moore. Chris Parker had an RBI double in the first inning for the Spartans and Trevor Branch also had an RBI single in a two-run fifth inning.
“We have some young guys in the lineup that swing the bat a little bit,” Smithfield-Selma coach David Lawhon said. “They are still trying to get used to varsity pitching. They are getting better at the plate.
“All the young guys stepped up and delivered tonight.”
Particularly Blackman, whose grand slam was his first extra-base hit of the season. Blackman also had an RBI double in the fifth.
“He hit a good pitch,” North Johnston coach Brian Ford said of the grand slam. “That was a big blow, a huge blow.”
Smithfield-Selma also got outstanding pitching from its two seniors on the roster.
Starter Chris Simonson (1-1) worked five strong innings, giving up just two hits and an unearned run in the first inning. Parker pitched the final two innings and struck out six batters while facing just seven batters – allowing one base runner, who reached on an error in the sixth.
“Simonson threw well,” Lawhon said. “He got behind hitters a few times and walked a few leadoff batters, but he battled back and we got guys out. Defensively, I thought we played well behind him. Chris Parker came in and threw strikes and it was lights out.”
With conference play coming up in a week, the Spartans put together their best game of the season, Lawhon said.
“Tonight was the first complete game that we have played,” Lawhon said. “There have been games where we hit the ball well but we didn’t play defense well or didn’t pitch well. There have games we have pitched well and played great defensively but didn’t swing the bat.
“Tonight, I thought we played well defensively, had good pitching performances and swung the bats. It’s a good way to go into next week when we go into conference. The kids are working hard and we hope it continues.”
It was a frustrating night for North Johnston (1-3). The Panthers had some base runners in the first three innings, but managed only one run. After that, the Spartans took control with the big third inning.
“We did a terrible job of scoring runs,” Ford said. “We left too many men on base. I feel strongly that they will start producing. We are going to get better.”