FOUR OAKS — South Johnston had only one blemish on its season softball record coming into Friday night. And thanks to some very solid pitching and defense and a sixth-inning rally, the Trojans got revenge.
South scored the winning run on a safety squeeze with one out to complete a two-run rally, winning a 3-2 nail-biter over Two Rivers 3A rival Triton. The win improved the Trojans to 12-1, 5-1 in conference play while the Hawks fell to 8-6 and 3-3.
It was South’s seventh straight win since a 4-3, 10-inning loss in Erwin on March 24.
Lauren Higgins was the winning pitcher, going the distance and allowing the two runs on six hits with three strikeouts and no walks. Triton’s Kayla Baker was solid as well, allowing the three runs on five hits with two walks against a pair of strikeouts.
“Any time you play Triton you can expect it to go to the very end,” veteran South coach Mickey Bridgers said. “This was as intense as the last one. We were fortunate to be able to execute and make plays on defense.
“We got an excellent game from Lauren on the mound. A lot of people were here to see a great high school softball game.”
Triton coach Mark Whitman said it was a tough one for his team to lose, particularly after such a solid effort.
“We came out on the wrong end this time,” Whitman said. “It’s karma, I guess. That’s how we beat them at our place. They’re a good team.
“We’re the top two teams in the conference, I think, player for player. We just haven’t shown it. We had a couple of bad breaks, but that’s softball. You can’t take anything away from South. They battled, played hard and stayed right there. My pitcher pitched good and their pitcher pitched good.”
Madison Byrd led South with a double and a single for two RBI, while Caroline Dorman chipped in a pair of hits and stole a base.
“We all had the mentality that we had to buckle down and do what we had to do to win,” Byrd said. “We’ve come back a few times, and we had a tough game with them last time. We just knew we had to come out and execute tonight.”
Triton’s runs both came on solo homers, one from Lindsey Champion in the second and the other from Emma Thomas in the fourth.
“The same thing happened to me at Beddingfield a couple of weeks ago,” South pitcher Higgins said. “When someone hits a big home run, you just have to shake it off. I know I’ve got a good defense behind me and we can bounce back and answer back with hits. This is a big rivalry, so this was a big win for us.”
South went up 1-0 in the first inning as Krista Collins drew a leadoff walk, took second on Alexis Massengill’s bunt and scored on Byrd’s two-out single up the middle.
But the homers put the Trojans down 2-1 until their key rally.
Kayla Allen led off the sixth with an infield hit off the pitcher before Byrd’s double brought home the equalizer. McKinley Johnson came on to run for Byrd, taking third on a wild pitch before Carrisa Womble laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to allow Johnson to slide home on the safety.
“It wasn’t going to be a suicide,” Bridgers said. “I was scrambling, to be honest with you. We weren’t hitting the ball like we usually do, but a lot of credit to Kayla Baker for the way she pitched for Triton.”
Dorman said the Trojans got some pretty good satisfaction out of the revenge comeback.
“I felt really good tonight,” Dorman said. “(Baker) was throwing a lot outside and we just had to wait on it and drive it. We knew this was going to be a tough game, and it’s great to win it.”