South Granville’s Justin Bullock struck out 18 batters to punctuate the Vikings’ 3-0 win over Northwood Saturday night in the final of the 29th annual Bobby Murray High School Invitational Baseball Tournament.
The junior right-hander set down the first four whiffs looking and the next 14 Ks swinging – including a 1-2-3 seventh inning – for is career-high. He improved to 6-0 with double-digit strikeouts in each game.
“That’s the best he’s been this year,” South Granville head coach Curt Watkins said. “He was in a groove.”
Only three Northwood batters put the ball in play in the seven-inning game. Two were fly balls and the third a ground out to second. There wasn’t radar gun at the game, but the N.C. State commit has been clocked at 93 miles per hour.
“I had my fastball working,” Bullock said. “I kept it down. I was out in front on my curveball and I kept that down as well.”
The 6-foot-2, 200-pounder finished with a three-hitter on 105 pitches. He hit two batters, but he didn’t walk any. He consistently had right-handed batters flailing at a changeup that dipped low to the outside.
“I felt stronger as the game went on,” he said. “I got my legs into it more.”
Unranked South Granville (8-1), the defending N.C. High School Athletic Association 2A champion, defeated No. 8 Millbrook for one of the Vikings wins in an eight-team field with three ranked area schools.
Third baseman Justin Brown was 2-of-3 with two RBI singles. Right fielder Tucker Brown was 1-of-3 with a run scored, center fielder Austin Bailey 1-of-2 with a run scored and Bullock also scored a run when he was walked in the fifth. He also was intentionally walked and officially was 0-of-1.
Northwood dropped to 9-4 after winning its first two games to reach the final.
In an earlier consolation game, Millbrook (8-5) salvaged an 11-4 victory over Southwest Guilford of High Point after opening the tournament with two losses. Millbrook also might have found another starter for the remainder of Cap-8 Conference play.
Senior pitcher Ethan Banks allowed only one earned run and two hits through six innings before Porter Baldwin pitched the seventh. Banks suffered a torn labrum in last year’s Bobby Murray Tournament and was sidelined for 10 months following surgery.
“If you would have seen from my first start to today you wouldn’t believe it,” said Banks, who made his fourth start. “I have to thank (head coach) Austin James and my teammates for believing in me.”
Banks also was 2-of-2 at the plate with two runs scored and an RBI. Senior Bryce Carnevale, who was 3-of-4 with two runs scored and two RBIs, said the team remained confident in Banks’ throughout his slow start to his comeback season.
“Each outing we’ve told to keep pounding the strike zone,” Carnevale said. “Today he showed everything he has.”
Carnevale noted it’s a young team compared to the 2015 Wildcats that finished as the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A state runner-up, but he believes they are capable of making a run.
“We really prepared for this game,” he said. “We’re coming into the heart and soul of the Cap-8 (schedule) so this was much needed,”
In two other consolation games played at Wakefield, No. 9 Middle Creek defeated Broughton 10-0 and No. 13 Green Hope beat Wakefield 11-0.