From his trusted plastic-barrel perch just beyond the South Granville dugout, coach Jackie Day has a prime view of a huge banner that commemorates the school’s eight state softball championships – the final of which was obtained last season.
“The only one that I got was from 2015,” Day said. “The other seven were won by (retired legendary skipper) Jimmy Fleming. This is his legacy. I’m just happy I can follow up for him. But really, it’s about our kids. They know what (the South Granville tradition) is all about.”
With only two starters lost from last state title group, the Vikings are hungry to add another crown to their expansive list, but plenty of challengers are lining up – including the Bunn Ladycats.
The long-time foes continued their rivalry Thursday as South Granville, playing at home, remained undefeated with a 2-1 decision over Bunn in an important early-season Northern Carolina Conference contest.
The clubs are certainly no strangers to each other as they met four times last year, with Bunn (7-2, 3-2) winning both outings in the regular season before South Granville (7-0, 4-0) returned the favor with a two-game sweep in the 2A East regional final en route to the state championship.
The Vikings scored both of their runs in the bottom of the third inning as McKenzie Coley led off with a single and later scored on a triple from Savannah Tilley.
Brianne Coleman then plated Tilley on a grounder, and that run would prove to be key as Bunn’s Stephanie Williams would launch a solo homer in the top of the fourth.
The rest of the game served as a pitcher’s duel between South Granville’s Miranda Barker and Bunn’s Erica Davis, both of whom are returning from last season.
Three to know
Miranda Barker, South Granville: As a sophomore in 2015, Barker developed into the Vikings’ ace and led her club all the way to a state crown.
Barker has picked up this spring where she left off, including Thursday’s gem, which featured just three hits allowed and six strikeouts.
Barker also worked out of potential jams in both the fifth and seventh innings.
“I never really felt pressure,” Barker said. “You just can’t think about it. It’s not pressure when you aren’t thinking about it.”
Erica Davis, Bunn: Davis, the defending Northern Carolina Conference Player of the Year, scattered seven hits on the mound while striking out two. She worked her way out a jam in the bottom of the sixth to give Bunn a chance in its final at-bat.
“Thanks to Erica, we had a shot in the end,” said Bunn coach Melanie Lovin. “She came through with a lot of quality pitchers. She didn’t have a lot of strikeouts, but she pitched well to our defense.”
Savannah Tilley, South Granville: The Vikings’ leadoff hitter came through with a clutch triple that sparked South Granville’s two-run uprising in the bottom of the third. She also doubled in the first but was left stranded at third base.
By the numbers
3: Bunn is staring a trio of ninth-graders this spring as the Ladycats are reloading on the fly after some losses to graduation and injury. Two of those freshmen – Katelyn Robbins and Delaney Wilson – reached base in the top of the seventh as Bunn attempted a rally.
“If we can keep getting those types of contributions from our young girls, we are going to be fine,” Lovin said. “It was nice to see them step up in that situation.”
4: Barker showed her big-game savvy by stranding a quartet of Bunn baserunners over the final three innings. Barker even fielded her position by scooping up a grounder to end the game with the tying run on second base.
“It doesn’t matter what the situation is, Miranda doesn’t really change,” Day said. “Watching her, you really wouldn’t know what the score is. She is pretty much the same every pitch.”
2: Davis has already registered two perfect games this spring, one of which came courtesy of 15 strikeouts in 15 batters faced. The veteran Bunn hill star has verbally committed to play softball at Claflin University in South Carolina.
39: The number of home runs South Granville hit on its way to last season’s state crown. Day expects his club won’t challenge that number this time around, though he still anticipates plenty of offensive success.
“We are going to have to score more by moving people around,” Day said. “We haven’t really gotten there yet offensively, but it’s still early.”
9: South Granville is in search of its ninth state championship in school history this spring. The Lady Vikings have a veteran group to work with, along with a proven veteran pitcher in Barker.
“We go places, and we know we have a target on us,” Day said. “But I feel like we have a chance to make a run (in the playoffs). We just have to be consistent.”