GARNER — Senior Lauren Marbrey continued her dominant pitching and Alisha Josie hit an ice-breaking homer in the fourth inning to power Garner to a 9-0 victory Tuesday night over Green Hope in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs.
Garner (19-2), the Greater Neuse River Conference champion, won its 14th straight game as Marbrey improved to 13-1 for the season.
The Trojans were in a scoreless tie with Green Hope, the No. 4 seed from the Southwest Wake Conference, until Josie led off the bottom of the fourth with a homer over the left-field wall – her team-leading fourth of the season.
“At the start of the game, we were tighter than the Wake County school system paying coaches’ salaries,” Garner coach Moe Barbour deadpanned after the big win. “Before the game, Josie and I were walking down to the field and I said, ‘Hey Josie, don’t let us lose tonight.’ She said, ‘Yes sir.’
“She broke the ice for us. She is a big-game player. That home run got us going.”
Josie, a sophomore, provided the offensive spark in a two-run fourth inning. The Trojans broke it open by scoring five runs in the fifth inning.
The Trojans batted around in the fifth, using a walk, four hits and a hit batter to produce five runs. Marbrey had a two-run single in the inning and Kira Jackson and Libby Bynum also drove in runs.
Marbrey did her best work in the circle, however. She scattered five hits, all singles, walked none and struck out seven.
“I thought Lauren was exceptional,” Barbour said. “She was around the plate all night. She has confidence in the girls behind her and that makes a big difference. Lauren has been lights out.
“I knew what she was about. I knew what this team was about when they lost that game down in Clayton (a 15-9 loss with Marbrey not pitching because of a sore arm). And the girls proved me right.”
Garner hasn’t lost since the March 21 defeat at Clayton.
Marbrey has piled up some impressive numbers along the way. For the season, Marbrey has walked just two batters and struck out 83 in 92 1/3 innings. She lowered her ERA to 1.29 with the shutout Tuesday.
“I felt good coming in tonight,” said Marbrey, who echoed Barbour’s praise of the Trojans’ defense. “It’s always good knowing you have great defense behind you. With that, you can do anything. … We’ve been waiting for this year for a long time. Now that is finally here, we are trying to take full advantage of it.
“We were slow starting on offense tonight, but as soon as one person gets something going, we all pick up on it.”
That person Tuesday was Josie. The sophomore popped up to third in her first at-bat, then popped one over the wall in the fourth to jump-start the Trojans.
“I knew they were going to throw me inside, so I just adjusted and tried to hit it hard,” said Josie, who led the Trojans with a .532 batting average coming into the game.
The Trojans had nine hits against Green Hope pitcher Tyler Then.
Leadoff batter Brooke Kamphuis, a senior second baseman, went 3-for-4 and scored two runs. Josie finished with two hits, slapping an RBI single in the Trojans’ two-run sixth, and Jackson had a pair of hits.
Green Hope finished 13-8. The Falcons have a roster dotted with underclassmen, and coach Morgan Caddell likes the direction in which the program is headed.
“We are a really young team,” Caddell said. “I am so excited about next year. We can only move up.”
For Garner, the plan is to move on. The Trojans advanced to a second-round meeting with Leesville Road.
“We’ve got a good mix,” Barbour said. “We have some good leadership on the team. … We’ll come out in the second round and try to do it again and just see where it leads us.”