GARNER — Senior left-hander Brighton Hudson turned and watched as the ball sailed over the fence in left-center field, a grand slam off the bat of East Wake’s Cody Alphin and a rare moment of adversity for the Garner ace.
Hudson, who had given up just two earned runs in his previous five starts this season, responded in winning fashion – regaining his focus and striking out 14 batters in a complete-game victory as the Trojans pulled out a wild 7-6 victory in the Greater Neuse River 4A Conference game.
“I don’t think my focus was there at the start, with spring break last week,” said Hudson, who improved to 4-1 this season. “I wasn’t zoned in like I normally am. I was leaving pitches up.
“Toward the end of the game, I started to focus back in and get back into it. I was pitching lower in the zone and throwing all my pitches better.”
Garner (8-4, 4-1 Greater Neuse River) had to rally twice in the game, scoring three runs in the bottom of the third inning to take a 5-4 lead after Alphin’s blast. The Trojans allowed a pair of unearned runs in the top of the sixth to fall behind 6-5, but came right back with a pair of unearned runs in the bottom of the inning to go ahead 7-6.
In the decisive bottom of the sixth, Saylon Kieft led off with a walk. With Hudson at the plate, Kieft stole second. Hudson hit a ground ball to shortstop but the throw was wild, allowing the tying run to score and Hudson to reach second. After a strikeout, Hudson stole third base and came home on a groundout by Dakis Brown.
East Wake (7-6, 4-3) hurt itself with errors. Six of the seven runs surrendered by the Warriors were unearned as the Trojans took advantage of four errors.
Hudson settled down after the four-run third inning, recording nine of his 14 strikeouts over the next four innings – striking out the side in the fourth and three more in the sixth and getting the final out of the game on a strikeout with the potential tying run at second base in the seventh.
Hudson increased his season strikeout total to 64 in 34 innings, allowing six hits and walking three. His ERA rose from 0.52 to a still very-respectable 1.24.
“Brighton wasn’t his sharpest, but East Wake had a good approach,” Garner coach Derik Goffena said. “Even though he ended up with 14 strikeouts, they put the bat on the ball. The grand slam, their guy had a great hit, and they definitely took advantage of some of our mistakes.”
For the Trojans, it was a rare night when they had to pick up Hudson with their bats.
Cody Jones went 2-for-4 with an RBI single in the first and an RBI double in the three-run third. Brown had an RBI double in the first inning and finished with a pair of RBIs as the Trojans banged out eight hits.
“It was good for us,” Goffena said. “When Brighton is on the mound, he is usually steady. This is certainly out of the norm for him. I think sometimes we get comfortable with him on the mound. …
“We had a chance to extend the lead early and to their credit, their pitcher did an outstanding job and they just kept coming back. That’s a good team.”
East Wake right-hander Paschal Ammons, a 6-foot-8 senior, struck out nine Trojans and went the distance. He walked four and also hit a batter.
“I thought Paschal pitched too good of a game to get the loss in that one,” East Wake coach Derek Matthews said. “We didn’t play the defense behind him.
“Offensively, I told them I was proud of them. They faced probably the best pitcher they will face all year. I can’t ask them to do more than what we did against that pitcher.”
It was one of those games that was tough to lose and great to win. A test that both Hudson and the Trojans survived.
“(Hudson) hasn’t faced a ton of adversity (in his career),” Goffena said. “This puts his record in four years at 22-1 or something like that. It’s good for him. He’s going to pitch at the next level and he is going to get hit. It was good to see him bounce back (after the grand slam).”