SMITHFIELD — The South Johnston baseball team knows it has no room for error if it wants to grab a share of the regular season Two Rivers 3A Conference title.
The Trojans certainly left little to chance Friday night as they cruised to a 16-3 win over Smithfield-Selma to remain just one game behind league leaders Triton with one game left to play in the regular season.
Joe Johnson threw six strong innings to earn the win for South Johnston while the Trojans pounded out 15 hits against four different Spartan pitchers.
Johnson scattered four hits over six innings and struck out six as the right hander seemed to get stronger as the game entered the later innings.
“He wasn’t as sharp early as he has been but he battled through it,” South Johnston coach Keith Durham said of his starting pitcher. “The defense held up and made some really nice plays to help keep (Smithfield-Selma) at bay early on.”
Early on, it looked as though the Spartans (3-14, 0-9) were more than capable of spoiling South Johnston’s hopes as SSS took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning. A Brandon Bales’ double was followed by a South Johnston error and a pair of wild pitches to lead to the two runs.
Down 3-2 in the bottom of the fourth inning, Smithfield-Selma threatened again in loading the bases but were denied from tying the game or retaking the lead when Dylan Brown’s hard liner was caught by South Johnston second baseman Will Barbour.
The out represented the Spartans’ last chance of staying in the game as the Trojans put 13 runs on the board over the next three innings.
South Johnston (12-7, 7-2) received hits from each of its top five batters in the lineup in the five-run fifth inning and used a stretch of three consecutive hits in the seventh inning to post another five-run frame.
“Scoring runs is all about stringing hits together and they strung quite a few together,” Smithfield-Selma coach David Lawhon said. “They were swinging the bats. Every run they got, they deserved.”
Johnson went 3-for-4 and drove in three runs, but it was Joey Matthews who did the most damage as he drove in five runs thanks to a bases clearing double in the seventh inning, a RBI single in the fifth and a sacrifice fly in the third.
Will Barbour, Nash Johnson and Josh Stikeleather all added two hits apiece on a night that saw nine different Trojan collect basehits.
“These kids have done everything we’ve asked them to do,” Durham said. “It was great to see them come out and play like they played tonight.”
South headed into its final conference game of the regular season needing a win over Cleveland and a Triton loss to Corinth Holders to share the title with the Hawks, who the Trojans split with in their two games this season.
Bales led the Spartans with a pair of hits while Charlie Horne and Chris Simonson were responsible for the other two Smithfield-Selma basehits for the game.