ERWIN — South Johnston reeled off nine unanswered runs to earn a shot at a conference tournament championship Thursday, downing Corinth Holders 9-3.
The Pirates jumped out to a 3-0 lead before South started to consistently hit the ball with runners on base.
“We got those big two-out hits with guys on base,” said South coach Keith Durham. “We didn’t look good against (Nick) Peach the first time we played them when he beat us 3-2 up there (at Corinth Holders). We looked overmatched early but we stuck with it and got some hitting.”
South started a two-out rally for a run in the second from scratch with Drew Mustgrave singling and Cody Allen doubling him home.
Nash Johnson kicked off South’s go-ahead frame with a triple — his first of two on the afternoon — in the bottom of the fourth. A pair of Corinth Holders errors brought home three runs before Will Barbour’s sacrifice fly gave the Trojans a 5-3 lead.
Earlier, Barbour helped South with his glove, making a diving grab at second base in the first inning to save at least two runs for the Trojans.
“That was a huge play, kept them off of the board early,” Durham said of Barbour’s diving grab.
In the fifth, South reeled off three more runs with singles by Nash Johnson and Joseph Johnson setting up Zach Bridges’ two-run single to centerfield. A Pirate error with two outs allowed South to score another run.
The miscues were troubling for a Pirate team that will open the state playoffs this week.
“We let one or two mistakes snowball and couldn’t get it out of our mind,” said Corinth Holders coach Adam Weaver. “Against good teams, the kinds of teams we see in this conference, you’re not going to have a lot of chances to win. But that’s been the story of our year.”
Nash Johnson hit his second triple in the Trojans’ sixth and later scored on a wild pitch.
South pitchers Joseph Johnson and Ethan Barefoot combined to allow just one Corinth Holders’ hit over the final six innings. Joseph Johnson got the win with five innings of work.
“Joe settled in and looked like Joe and then Ethan just came in and hit his spots, pitched like he had a lead,” Durham said.
Cameron Brewer brought home the game’s first two runs for Corinth Holders with a two-run single that scored Brendan Bloom and Adam Evans in the top of the second. A South infield error brought home the Pirates’ final run of the afternoon a batter after Brewer’s hit.
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