GARNER — When freshman Cody Jones singled up the middle, scoring Skylar Strickland and giving Garner a 4-3 win in eight innings over rival Clayton Friday night it capped off an interesting first night of baseball in the Greater Neuse River 4A Conference.
The Trojans’ win was one of three games in the league on the night decided in the final two innings.
Garner brought a 5-2 mark and a three-game winning streak into its matchup with Clayton, which had struggled to a 1-5 start this season, but the Trojans trailed 3-2 entering the bottom of the sixth inning.
Levin Woodall reached on the first of two Clayton errors of the night with one out in the Garner sixth, then took second on a wild pitch and third on the second Comet miscue.
That’s when Vince Jeffries lined a hard shot up the middle that a diving Matt Bein got a glove on but couldn’t keep out of the outfield, allowing Woodall to score, tying the game.
“Vince Jeffries hit some big line drives,” said Garner coach Derik Goffena. “The ball in the sixth was one. And we don’t get the chance to score that run that Cody drove in without his ball to the right side of the infield.
“We didn’t hit like we have been but we executed we needed to score.”
Garner left-hander Brighton Hudson worked back-to-back 1-2-3 innings in the seventh and eighth. He struck out eight and walked two.
“His first two innings were tough,” Goffena said of Hudson. “But once he got to the fourth he was great. That’s usually his M.O. He really pitched well in the latter innings. He was done if we had gone to the ninth.”
Clayton starter Sam May, another lefty, was very effective as well, giving up a single earned run and five hits in six innings of work.
“I thought our pitching executing was great,” said Clayton coach Stacey Houser. “Sam was awesome.
“We just didn’t execute some small things that hurt us, like the mistakes that helped them tie it up in the sixth.”
Strickland sliced a double down the right field line with one out in the bottom of the eighth, then moved to third on Jeffries’ aforementioned ground out.
Jones followed with his game-winning single for a 4-3 victory.
“Cody is a young kid who split some time early but he’s our leading hitter,” Goffena said. “He doesn’t have the number of at bats some of the other guys have, but he’s come up with some hits.”
Brett Clark was 2-for-4 for the Comets with a two-run double in the third to put Clayton up 3-1. Clark, who is coming back from an injury, played first base for the Comets as Houser tries to gives his team more offensive punch.
That shifted regular first baseman Michael Haddix to right field.
“We’re trying to get more bats in the lineup,” Houser said. “We’ve talked every day about how everybody on this team has value. We’ve just got to build on the positives and work hard, do the best we can individually in whatever situation to help the team.”
The loss dropped Clayton to 1-1 in the conference. The Comets beat Southeast Raleigh in a league game earlier in the month.
“This is a loss that we can build on,” Houser said. “We have some positives that we can take away from this. We’ve had loses this season where that hasn’t been the case.”
Garner took a 1-0 lead on Carrington Austin’s sacrifice fly in the first, but Clayton answered when Kyle Soloman singled home a run in the second.
Taylor Stephens singled and later scored on a balk for Garner in the third. He was 2-for-4 with a double on the night.
“I thought Clayton played a really good game,” Goffena said. “Their pitcher pitched really well. We’ve been hitting the ball of late and they kept us off balance.”
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