The Laws of the Northern Carolina Conference regular season standings apparently don’t apply to the N.C. High School Athletic Association 2A State Baseball Playoffs.
Defending state champion South Granville, which had lost to Bunn twice over the past 16 days in NCC action, avenged those setbacks by besting the host Wildcats 12-0 in Friday’s rematch in the second round of the playoffs in front of a standing-room only crowd at the Bunn Baseball Field.
South Granville (19-3) sophomore lefty Holden Laws, who has verbally committed to continue his diamond career at N.C. State, kept the potent Bunn (20-4) lineup off-balance and limited the Wildcats to just a pair of infield singles before the game was stopped after the bottom of the fifth inning.
“Bunn is a good team, but the third time was the charm for us,” said Laws, who also delivered a solo homer in the top of the third. “All along, we felt like we might get another chance to play (the Wildcats) in the playoffs.”
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That moment came in the second round, and the Vikings never trailed after plating two runs in the first stanza. Bunn had rallied from deficits to rally past South Granville in both of the regular season contests, but the Wildcats couldn’t get anything going offensively against Laws.
“We didn’t limit the damage after the first,” said Bunn coach Chris Cullom. “In the other games we had played against (South Granville), we stopped the bleeding eventually. We didn’t in this game. We had too many walks and too many errors. We have good pitching but not dominant pitching. Because of that, we can’t afford a lot of walks and errors.”
Bunn went through three pitchers in the decisive second, which featured four base-on-balls along with a grand slam from South Granville’s Justin Bullock – another NC State commit.
Sitting on a fastball on a 1-0 count, Bullock lined a pitch off the scoreboard in center-field, and the Vikings had increased their advantage to 6-0.
“We knew this was going to be a tough game – it always is when these teams play each other,” Bullock said. “We had been going 1-1 with (Bunn) during most of the regular seasons lately, but we took two losses against them this time. It was kind of an eye-opener for us.”
South Granville would set up the 10-run rule with a three-spot in the top of the fifth as cleanup hitters Clay Walters came through with a two-RBI single.
Laws would finish off the victory with a pair of strikeouts in the bottom of the fifth. Laws, who has an 0.76 earned-run average this spring, has whiffed 86 batters – including seven on Friday – in just 42 innings of work.
And Laws isn’t even the Vikings’ No. 1 starter. That honor goes to Bullock, but the Wildcats had experienced some success against him in the regular season. So positioning his playoff rotation to have Laws ready for Bunn was an easy choice for South Granville coach Curt Watkins.
“Against Bunn, you really have to locate the ball well,” Watkins said. “In both of the regular season games, we brought Holden into the game in relief, and he did very well. We had confidence going to him, and it helped us that we were able to get a lead early.
“We hated to see that we might meet up with Bunn in the second round, because we felt this was kind of like and East Final game. It’s a shame one of us had to go this early.”
South Granville’s pitching staff is so deep that Justin Brown -- last year’s state championship Most Valuable Player -- is in the No. 3 slot and hasn’t even stepped on to the hill through a pair of playoff contests.
“It’s hard to beat the pitching that South Granville has,” said Cullom, who now says goodbye to a senior-dominated class that includes East Carolina signee and MLB Draft prospect Spencer Brickhouse.
The Wildcats have won five consecutive conference regular season crowns in the NCC.