South baseball starting to turn the corner

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It hasn’t been an easy season for South Johnston. The Trojans found themselves on the wrong end of some really close games early in the season, but they’ve taken care of business the last couple of weeks, picking up their fourth-straight victory Friday with a 6-1 win over East Wake.

Junior right-hander Justin Hamilton came up big for South (6-7, 4-4), giving up just one run in six innings of work to get the win on the mound. Ben Stafford came on in the seventh and shut the door with a pair of strikeouts to end the game.

“Justin was outstanding,” said South Johnston coach Aaron Parnell. “We said from the beginning, ‘We’re going to throw strike one all night.’ And he did that. He went out there and competed. The rain was on and off there for a couple of innings, but he pulled through. He pitched a heck of a game.”

It was tight through five innings, with the Trojans holding a narrow 2-1 lead. But South broke through with four runs in the final two frames. Jacob Norris was hit by a pitch and Clayton Blackman singled to lead things off. Cole Winborne drew a walk to load the bases, and Aubrey Pollard drove in a pair of runs with a base hit. Ben Stafford followed with another base hit, and Jackson Raynor drove in a run with a fielder’s choice. South tacked on its final insurance run in the sixth on an RBI single by Winborne to make it 6-1.

“The guys are starting to have better at bats,” Parnell said. “We’re looking for good pitches to drive, where before we were maybe a little too aggressive and jumping on pitches that weren’t our pitch. You’re starting to see guys understand that they can hit with one or two strikes. Our approach is so much better, we only struck out one time tonight.”

After starting off 0-4 in Greater Neuse Conference play, the Trojans have won four-straight to pull into a tie with Cleveland for third place. The Trojans have had some tough luck, losing three one-run games and falling twice in extra innings. But Parnell hopes the recent success is a sign of what’s to come.

“We’ve known all year we’re better than what our record says,” Parnell said. “We’ve just had the mindset of, ‘Keep playing through it, and everything’s going to work out.’ First couple of weeks, we took some tough losses, but it’s impressive. The guys just kept working and doing everything they can to get better every day.”

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