FOUR OAKS — The South Johnston softball team has become one of the more consistent programs in the state as evidenced by the Trojans’ streak of three consecutive 20-win seasons entering this year.
After defeating fellow Johnston County perennial powers Princeton and West Johnston in the opening weeks of the season, the Trojans took down yet another local storied program, North Johnston, 8-3 Friday night to add even more optimism for what the team can accomplish this season.
“We’re on the verge of a pretty good season here,” South Johnston coach Mickey Bridgers said. “We’re 5-0. For the preseason, we can’t ask for a much better result than what we have at this point.”
In the Trojans’ last game before play in the Two Rivers 3A Conference begins, South Johnston pushed through seven runs in the bottom of the second inning to take complete control of the game.
The Trojans took advantage of a leadoff walk issued to Alex Woodall and a pair of errors in the pivotal inning that saw 12 hitters enter the batter’s box and combine for six base hits.
Woodall and Dinalee Spell would later score on a pair of Panther errors, Krista Collins drove in a run on a sacrifice fly, Madison Byrd doubled to left to drive in two runs and Woodall plated Byrd with a RBI single to cap off the inning.
“South (Johnston) came to play,” said North Johnston coach George Daniels. “They took advantage of every mistake we made. They executed with some timely hits as well.”
Freshman pitcher Hannah Ryan came on in relief for starter Emma Turner in the second inning and steadied the ship for the visitors.
Ryan threw 4 and 1/3 innings and struck out six Trojans while allowing just one unearned run on four hits.
North Johnston (3-2) responded with two runs in the third when Jamie Johnson’s RBI double drove home Turner and freshman Meghan Sherrod plated Johnson with a RBI single.
Olivia Narron scored on an errant throw back to the pitcher in the top of the seventh but Lauren Higgins shut the door afterward, eliciting a fly ball from the Panthers’ Kaylynn Batten to end the contest.
Spell earned the win for the Trojans with four solid innings as she allowed two runs on five hits. Higgins closed out the final three innings in order for both pitchers to get some innings in the only game South Johnston was able to play all week due to weather.
Byrd went 3-4 at the plate to lead the Trojans while Allen, Anna Webster and Carissa Womble all recorded two hits for the evening.
“We responded to the challenge tonight,” Bridgers added. “North Johnston is a very solid team even though they lost a lot of players; they are tradition rich in softball talent.”
Daniels was pleased with how his young squad responded after the difficult second inning. The Panthers lost a lot of key pieces from last year’s 23-1 team and had four freshmen and three sophomores in the mix against South Johnston.
“I think they all are a little tight,” Daniels said of his players. “We’ve been very successful the last few years and now we have the target on our back.”
Johnson and Sherrod led the Panthers with two hits apiece in the loss.