CLAYTON — It took over a season and a half for the Cleveland baseball team to secure the first varsity win in program history.
But after the Rams bested Clayton 10-3 Friday afternoon to go 2-0 on this young season, Cleveland looks every bit the confident team that expects to win every time it steps onto the field
In their victory over county rival Clayton, the Rams used a six-run third inning to break the contest open.
An RBI double by Cleveland starting pitcher Cody Johnson and a pair of RBI singles from Taylor Finn and Alan Michael Hales highlighted the bottom of the third inning, in which the Rams sent 10 batters to the plate.
“Right now we can’t keep out of the big inning,” Clayton coach Stacey Houser said. “We gave up a four-run inning last night (in a 6-4 loss to South Johnston) and gave up another one tonight.
“We’ve just got to do a better job competing when we get into those situations so we don’t give other teams the opportunity to create the big inning.”
Control was an issue for Clayton pitching, as Comet pitchers issued six walks that which led to four of the Rams’ runs.
On the flip side, Johnson was efficient on the mound for Cleveland, following up teammate Kodi Whitley’s pitching gem in a season-opening 8-2 win over Smithfield-Selma with one of his own to silence the Comet bats for much of the contest.
The senior lefty allowed the three Clayton runs on just five hits over six innings while striking out seven.
“We finished real strong last year, had a really good summer, and it just has carried over,” Cleveland coach Jamie Lee of his team, which won four of its final seven games last season after struggling early. “They’re going about things the right way, and that’s making all the difference.
“We finally turned the corner and are headed in the right direction.”
Cole Hinnant led the Comets (0-2) with a pair of hits, including a double that jump-started the Clayton offense in the top of the fourth inning.
After a Hunter Poole single, the Comets’ Kyle Solomon delivered the biggest blow of the night for the visitors as he doubled to right field to plate both Hinnant and Poole.
“We’re young; we’re going to get better,” Houser said of his club. “I’ve got a good bunch of boys, and they’ll work together to compete.”
As for the Rams, expectations have changed somewhat in this, their third season playing on the varsity level.
“Winning a game here or there is not our goal,” Lee said. “We’ve got goals of being conference champions, of being Easter tournament champions. … Our goals are much higher now.”