CLAYTON — Cleveland completed a regular-season sweep of Smithfield-Selma on Thursday night, using an aggressive offensive approach and a strong pitching performance from senior right-hander Chase Jackson to win 11-3 in a Two Rivers 3A Conference baseball game.
Jackson gave up just three hits in a complete-game effort to improve to 3-1 on the season. The three runs he allowed were unearned – a pair of throwing errors on his own part contributing to a three-run Spartans’ inning.
The three runs cut the lead to 5-3, but Cleveland responded with a pair of runs in the bottom of the third to extend its lead to 7-3. Jackson shook off his defensive miscues, retiring eight straight batters after giving up the three runs.
“Coach always tells us you have to put things behind you,” Jackson said. “That’s what we did. We made some plays, got out of that inning and kept making plays and won.
“It was a tough conference game. We beat them last time and I knew they were going to try to beat us here. They battled hard that one inning but we kept getting run support.”
Cleveland (5-9, 2-4 Two Rivers 3A) banged out 12 hits, getting three hits and three RBIs from Matt Noble and two hits each from Avery Dean (two doubles), Alan Stephenson, Nolan Bailey and Trevor Poole.
The Rams also ran the bases hard, getting three stolen bases from Jackson and one each from Noble and Bailey.
“We had a tough time at Western Harnett on Tuesday night, but our approach was a lot better tonight,” Cleveland coach Jamie Lee said. “We ran the bases well and got extra bases on their mistakes at times. When they made mistakes, we tried to capitalize.
“We hit the ball well and got some timely hitting and scored runs when we needed to.”
The Rams scored two runs in the first. Jackson led off and was hit by a pitch, stole second and third and came home when the throw to third went into the outfield. Dean had a one-out double and scored on Stephenson’s RBI single.
In the second, Poole drew a leadoff walk, Noble singled to right and two runs came home on a throwing error by the Spartans. Dean drove in the third run with a double to straightaway center.
Then, after the Spartans (3-9, 0-6) had cut the lead to 5-3 with three in the top of the third, Cleveland responded with a pair of runs on a leadoff walk, a double by Poole and a two-run single by Noble.
Jackson took care of it from there, shutting out the Spartans the rest of the way.
“Chase did a good pitching, threw strikes and kept them off balance,” Lee said. “He’s done that all year. He’s just done a good job pitching for us.”
Cleveland added four runs in the bottom of the sixth to go up 11-3, getting a two-run single from Chris Bjorling in a three-hit inning.
Smithfield-Selma made five errors in the game and gave up runs in four of six Cleveland innings.
“Jackson did a great job,” Smithfield-Selma coach David Lawhon said. “He threw well. He had us off balance. His off-speed stuff was working and he had some pop on his fastball.
“We didn’t really get any good pitching performances and defensively we just stunk it up. It was our worst defensive performance of the year.”
The outcome was disappointing, Lawhon said, because it came on the heels of some good games by the Spartans in losing efforts.
“We hadn’t won a conference game yet but we were playing well coming into tonight,” Lawhon said. “We played South (Johnston) tough 4-2 on Tuesday night and before that played Triton tough. We had high hopes coming into tonight.”