Curt Watkins seems to be a believer in the power of positive visualization. Before this weekend’s N.C. High School Athletic Association 2A baseball state finals, the South Granville head coach had his team perform a mock celebration during practice to simulate what it would be like win a state championship.
The Vikings don’t have to imagine anymore.
South Granville got to party for real Saturday night – full-on dogpile included – after defeating Randleman 8-4 in the decisive Game 3 of the best-of-3 series at N.C. State’s Doak Field to win the first baseball state title in program history.
Hailing from small-town Creedmoor, this year’s Vikings (25-4) will go down in history as the best of the best in a place that treats South Granville athletic teams like royalty.
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“We put Creedmoor on the map,” South Granville junior pitcher and state finals MVP Justin Brown said. “I really have no words to explain it. It’s just an amazing feeling and I’m going to remember it forever.”
Earlier in the day, the Vikings felt confident with sophomore pitcher Justin Bullock taking the mound for Game 2, but Randleman’s offense scored 11 runs in a 10-run win to force a final third game.
Not discouraged by its earlier performance, South Granville delivered when it truly needed a great showing.
While its bats were quiet in the 10-run loss, South Granville put together 16 hits in game 3.
In particular, South Granville’s 7-8-9 hitters (senior Cameron Willis, freshman Austin Bailey and junior Tucker Britt) batted 8-10 and combined for five RBIs.
“My boys fought back and doubled up them in hits,” Watkins said.
Trailing 4-3 early on, South Granville scored five runs in the third inning, all with two outs, and that would prove to be enough.
After Willis pitched the first two innings for South Granville, Brown came on in relief and threw five scoreless frames to earn the win, while recording five strikeouts.
Brown also pitched four scoreless innings in South Granville’s series opening win on Friday.
“He’s a horse,” Watkins said. “He’s my workhorse. I’m 10 or 12 deep on the mound, I easily could have threw someone else out there, but he wants the ball in those situations.”
Even though his team came up short, Randleman head coach Jake Smith is proud of what the Tigers accomplished. Randleman’s appearance in the state finals was its third in the last five years, and the Tigers also won the PAC-6 2A conference tournament.
“Those guys worked so hard,” Smith said. “They wanted it so bad. Just fell a little short.”