GARNER — The Trojans tightened their grip on first place in the Greater Neuse River 4A Conference with a 4-0 win over visiting Clayton on Thursday.
Garner, which improved to 13-2 overall and 8-1 in the league, exacted a bit of payback from a loss earlier in the season to Clayton, which fell to 10-5 and 7-3.
A win by the Comets would have put Clayton in first with the tiebreaker over Garner. Earlier in the week, Garner defeated West Johnston to help eliminate another threat for the top spot.
“This is the biggest week we’ve had so far,” said Garner coach Moe Barbour. “When you’re playing West Johnston and Clayton, that’s two of our biggest rivals. I told the girls, ‘You can almost set yourself up to win the conference this week with two wins.’ ”
Garner started Lauren Marbrey on the mound. The senior right-hander struck out six and allowed only five hits for the complete-game shutout. She also started the scoring for the Trojans with a solo home to left in the bottom of the second inning.
“Lauren pitched a nice ballgame,” Barbour said. “She’s been big for us all year.”
Garner tacked on a run in the fourth inning when Kira Jackson reached on an infield error with the bases loaded. The error allowed Alisha Josie to score from third for the 2-0 lead.
With the bases still loaded, Clayton got the next batter to line out to pitcher Bailey Perdue, who fired to third to double-up Marbrey. Perdue got the next batter to ground out to end the threat.
Clayton had its opportunities to score but was unable to capitalize on the chances.
In the top of the second inning with two outs, Marbrey stranded runners on second and third with a strikeout. In the top of the third she allowed a lead-off walk to Erin Hollingsworth, who moved to second on a fielder’s choice.
Jenna Harris then followed with a strong single to center. Hollingsworth came around toward home, but the throw from Josie in center field stopped Hollingsworth in her tracks halfway down the line. Garner was able to tag out Hollingsworth as she retreated back to third, and Marbrey went on to strike out the next batter to end the inning and keep the score 1-0 at the time.
“(Josie), let me tell you, her arm, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a high school outfielder with her kind of arm,” Barbour said. “I told the girls, that was a game-changing play.”
Libby Bynum’s two-run double in the sixth added the insurance runs for Garner.
“I thought we competed well,” said Clayton coach Jay Westbrook. “A couple of hits were the turning point. We couldn’t get the hits strung together, and that’s a credit to (Marbrey), who I thought pitched an outstanding game.”