CLAYTON — Leadoff hitter Lindsey Hodge set the tone for Clayton’s softball team Friday night, going 5-for-5 against rival Garner.
Hodge, a sophomore shortstop, came to the plate swinging and never stopped. And neither did the Comets, who outscored Garner 15-9 in a Greater Neuse River 4A Conference game.
The Comets, who pounded out 17 hits, scored three runs in each of the first two innings. Clayton added a pair of runs in the fourth to take an 8-0 lead.
“We wanted to beat Garner really bad and had been practicing all week,” Hodge said. “We were in the cages every day hitting. It just seems like we came out strong.
“We hadn’t been hitting as a team lately and (Coach Jay Westbrook) challenged the bottom of the lineup and they came through.”
The Garner offense woke up in the later innings, but the Comets scored two runs in the fifth and five in the sixth to keep the Trojans at bay.
The Comets got hits from eight players. When Garner opened the door with errors – the Trojans made four – the Comets made the mistakes hurt by capitalizing on the Trojans’ miscues.
“We knew we had to capitalize on their mistakes so we would have insurance in case we made any,” Hodge said. “It feels great (to score 15 runs).”
The Comets (5-1, 2-0 Greater Neuse River) made just one error and got a complete game from freshman Bailey Perdue.
“We’ve got young pitching and we knew early in the season that we were going to be aggressive at the plate and score,” said Westbrook, in his first season as the Comets’ head coach. “The coaches and players have bought in to getting up there and swinging the bat. We had a little lull after the first few games but I thought we came out tonight and had a great approach at the plate.
“We tell them to get theirs. If they get a pitch early in the count, go after it. I was really pleased.”
Hodge was the Comets’ catalyst, scoring four runs and driving in two runs. She was on base in all five innings that Clayton scored runs.
Senior Jenna Harris also scored four runs for the Comets, getting intentionally walked three times with first base open after driving in two runs in the first inning. Clayton third baseman Ashley Murphy, also a senior, had two hits and drove in four runs – capping a big offensive night with a two run double off the base of the fence in center field in the five-run sixth.
Erin Hollingsworth and Kortnie Blanchard also had two hits each for the Comets.
Garner got untracked in the fifth inning, scoring three runs. The Trojans added three in the sixth to pull within 10-6 and had three runs in the seventh. Garner had 16 hits of its own and had base runners in every inning except the first, but left 12 runners on base.
Brooke Kamphius and Alisha Josie banged out three hits apiece to lead the Trojans. Josie finished with three RBIs and Marbrey had two RBIs for the Trojans. Bridgette Kirkland and Libby Bynum also had two hits, each for Garner.
The Trojans handcuffed themselves, however, with the defensive lapses. Garner coach Moe Barbour was not pleased after the Trojans (3-1) dropped their conference opener to their biggest rival.
“It was one of those nights when I didn’t have anything to say during the game and I really don’t have anything to say right now,” Barbour said after the loss.