BENSON — For the second time this season, one bad inning proved to be the difference when Garner and West Johnston faced off in a key Greater Neuse River Conference battle.
For the second time this season, that inning went the way of the Trojans, as Garner held on for a 5-4 win over the Wildcats to remain all alone in first place.
The victory moved the Trojans to 7-1 in conference play and dropped West Johnston to a 5-3 mark in the GNRC. Garner scored all of its runs during one inning in a 5-1 win earlier in the season against the Wildcats.
“It’s always a big game when you play West Johnston,” Garner coach Moe Barbour said. “It’s been that way every year.
“This game has been on my mind for a little while, and I knew we had a one-game lead over the rest of the conference before we came down here.”
Thanks to Alisha Josie’s two-run home run and Lauren Marbrey’s sacrifice fly, the Trojans took a 3-0 lead after two innings.
West Johnston, which fell to 8-5 overall, aided the Trojans’ cause in the bottom of the fifth inning when, after recording the frame’s first two outs with ease, the Wildcats committed three errors that resulted in two Garner runs.
Bridgette Kirkland, who raced all the way around to third base on a West Johnston throwing error on a grounder up the middle, came home on a RBI single by Kira Jackson.
Another error on a play that would have ended the Garner half of the inning allowed Jackson to advance to third base. Jackson subsequently scored the eventual winning run when the Wildcats’ attempt to catch Taylor Bissette stealing second base ended up in center field.
“Against Garner, we can’t afford a bad inning,” West Johnston coach Warren Singleton said. “We can get away with a bad inning with most teams, but with them, we can’t afford it.”
The importance of Jackson’s run was magnified as West Johnston drew to within one run in the bottom of the seventh inning, when Megan Mills launched a two-run home run.
However, Garner starting pitcher Lauren Marbrey, who retired 10 batters in a row during one stretch, recovered to get Nadia Blevins to pop out to secure the complete-game victory and the Trojans’ seventh win in a row.
Marbrey allowed the four runs on eight hits while striking out six batters.
Jackson finished 3-for-4, while Josie put together a two-hit performance for the Trojans, who improved to 12-2 overall.
“I thought our girls swung the bat well, defensively we were solid, and Lauren pitched well,” Barbour said. “I was pleased with the outcome.”
Jordan Hunt, Lauren LeClerc (two RBIs) and Katelyn McLamb each recorded a pair of base hits, while Mills, in addition to her home run, struck out four batters in three innings of relief work to keep West Johnston in the game.
The fifth inning proved to be too much for the Wildcats to overcome, however.
“It was one more inning, one more error that caused us the problem tonight,” Singleton said.