Bunn and South Granville’s baseball and softball teams met with conference championship implications on Tuesday night, and both were one-run games. The Wildcats won 4-3 on a walk-off in baseball and won 1-0 in softball.
Bunn softball hands Vikings first loss
Melanie Lovin’s bucket list for the 2016 softball season added another accomplishment Tuesday as her Bunn Wildcats defeated Northern Carolina Conference rival – and defending NCHSAA 2A state champion – South Granville.
Lovin’s club, which features three infield starters to go with a trio of college-bound senior veterans, pushed across a single run in the bottom of the second inning, and that would be enough to edge the visiting Vikings by a 1-0.
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The loss was the first of the year for South Granville (15-1 overall, 9-1 NCC), but the Vikings still remained in first place outright in the conference. Bunn, which had fallen at South Granville earlier in the campaign, improved to 15-2 and 10-2 while moving alone into second place the competitive league.
While her team is in the field, Lovin sits on a lucky plastic bucket that cannot be moved or touched after the final out of the previous inning. The bucket has seen plenty of heroics during Lovin’s tenure as head coach, including a pair of state Final Four appearances.
“I guess you could say it’s more of a habit than a superstition,” Lovin said. “I’ve been doing it for 11 years. But I have to be the one to position the bucket before I sit down. It gets me focused.”
Lovin’s bucket provided a first-hand viewpoint of Erica Davis’ strong mound performance as the senior delivered a five-hitter that featured seven strikeouts. South Granville pushed only one runner to third base the entire game, and that was in the top of the first frame.
“Erica led our team offensively and defensively,” Lovin said. “She was on her game, top to bottom.”
In addition to her mound skills, Davis has developed a well-earned reputation as a cleanup hitter during her Bunn career. But it was a risky baserunning move by Davis that would lead to the only marker of the pitcher’s duel.
Davis led off the bottom of the second with a single and would eventually move to third base following a double from Katelyn Robbins. With one out, Lovin called for a bunt from ninth-grader Delaney Wilson, but the ball was fielded on one hop near first base for an out.
With Davis stranded between third base and home, she decided to make a dash for the plate. A good throw would have retired Davis by several feet, but the toss went over the catcher’s head, allowing Davis to come home.
“I got my lead off the bunt and got down the line, but the bunt went straight to first base,” Davis said. “I knew I was stuck and had to make a decision, so I decided to at least make them throw the ball. It was a big chance, but I figured the best thing was to try to put some pressure on them.”
The unconventional plan ending up working, and Davis would close things out by retiring 12 of the final 13 batters she faced.
“As a team, we’ve been gaining confidence as we go along,” Davis said. “Our older players have shown good leadership. We all remember when we were freshmen, and how we were scared and nervous. The older girls helped us along, and we are now trying to do that same thing this year for our freshmen.”
The victory broke a three-game losing streak for Bunn against South Granville, including a sweep in last season’s state semifinals. The Vikings lost twice to the Wildcats in the 2015 regular season, but bounced back to win the outings that mattered the most.
While South Granville coach Jackie Day is no fan of suffering a loss, he believes his veteran club has the talent and mental capacity to learn from the setback and turn it into a positive – just like the Vikings did last year after watching Bunn win the NCC’s regular season championship.
“Bunn is a class act, and we know every game with them is going to be a battle,” Day said. “We will bounce back. This conference can humble you quickly. It was a close one like it always is against Bunn. Things just didn’t go our way. We didn’t make (the Wildcats’ defenders) go back on many balls. Everything was in front of them all night.”
Bunn baseball wins in walk-off
On the other side of the Bunn campus, the Wildcats rallied from a deficit to stop South Granville baseball 4-3 in the first meeting of the season between the long-time rivals.
Bunn, which has won or shared four straight NCC regular season crowns, is now 17-3 overall and in the top spot in the league at 10-1 – one game ahead of South Granville (15-2, 8-2) and Roanoke Rapids. Bunn and South Granville will meet again next Wednesday in Creedmoor.
The Vikings took an early advantage Tuesday, thanks in part to a two-run homer from Spencer Shifflett in the top of the second.
Bunn clawed back to tie the score at 3-3 as Spencer Brickhouse contributed a solo longball off of standout Justin Bullock.
Josh Boone, who was also the winning pitcher in relief, worked out of jams in the sixth and seventh innings.
In the bottom of the seventh, Davie Morgan coaxed a full-count walk with one out, and Jordan Payne was hit by a pitch.
A fan then inadvertently ran into the lever that controls the lights at the Bunn Baseball Field, and the lights went out – much to the dismay of the crowd of over 300.
It took 20 minutes for the lights to be restored, and Boone followed with a clutch single to left-center.
Bunn coach Chris Cullom sent Morgan home, and the sophomore was able to just beat the throw home for the winner.
“This was probably tied for the biggest win I’ve had in my three years at Bunn,” Cullom said. “We beat South Granville two years ago in a game we trailed 10-1.
“The best part about this game was how cleanly it was played on both sides. Both teams came up with big hits, and it was great seeing all of these fans here. It was a memorable night.”