GARNER — No one who came to Thursday’s Clayton-Garner baseball rematch could have expected this.
The first time the two teams played, back on March 21 at Clayton’s Pleasant Field, the Comets eked out a classic 3-2 victory.
But on Thursday, Garner was in total defensive meltdown. Clayton scored seven unearned runs on six Trojan errors and rolled to a 12-2 victory in a game stopped after six innings.
Clayton improved to 12-3 overall and 8-1 in Greater Neuse River 4A play. Garner, which has had its way with the rest of the conference, dropped to 11-7 and 7-2.
“It was just our night tonight,” Clayton coach Stacey Houser said. “Every time we play them, it’s very competitive. Derik (Goffena) does a great job with their program, but we took advantage of mistakes and capitalized.
“This is a big win for us, and we feel like we beat a good baseball team tonight.”
Most of the damage came in the third inning.
The Comets jumped to a 2-0 lead on a pair of unearned runs on two hits in the second and then tacked on six more – three of them unearned – in the third as 11 batters went to the plate.
Marshall Creech drew a lead-off walk in the third, followed by a single from Drew Boumenot and an RBI single from Cole Hinnant. With one out, Blake Joyner was hit by a pitch, and a two-run double from Brooks Verona chased starter Saylon Kieft (3-1).
Sulley Keele greeted Colin Pippen with an RBI single, and the next two batters reached on infield errors before Creech’s sacrifice fly to right made it 8-0.
“It’s the worst game we’ve had in years,” Goffena said. “I don’t know how many years, but a lot of years. I hope we can recover quickly.
“We’re 7-2 in conference and still have a chance to host a playoff game or two if things fall the right way. Hopefully we can shake it off. We won’t see Clayton again this year unless it’s in the (state) playoffs, and if it works out that way, we’d be thrilled with it.”
Clayton finished with 12 hits, picking up at least one in every inning. Southpaw Sam May (4-2) was the winner, going five innings and allowing the two runs on six hits with four strikeouts against two walks. Brandon Boykin came on for the sixth.
“This team hit the ball great tonight,” May said. “Run support is great. It looked like Garner may have lost focus out there, and we took advantage of it.”
Brett Clark led Clayton with a double and two singles. Keele and Creech each added a pair of hits with an RBI, while Joyner chipped in two hits and a steal.
“It was a good ball game for us,” Clark said. “We stuck to our strategy and kept a good approach. Garner’s a great ball club. (Kieft) just didn’t have his best stuff tonight, and we punished it.
“Our team just has a great bond, and we like to have fun with each other.”
Grayson Lee had a single with an RBI and a steal for the Trojans.
Pippen gave up five runs during his 3-2/3 relief innings, and all were unearned.
“I like competition,” Pippen said. “But this was a challenge. My off-speed was working well and that kept me in it.
“We’re just going to have to go out and not make the mental mistakes we made tonight. We can’t win that way, especially against a good team like Clayton.”