One of the secrets of South Granville softball is never feeling pressure, even when you should.
On Friday night, Vikings pitcher Miranda Barker was three outs away from securing the team’s third 2A Eastern Regional Championship in four years. They led 5-2, but within seconds, Washington put runners on 2nd and 3rd with no outs.
So Barker did what came naturally.
“I started humming the theme to Camp Rock,” said Barker. “I think it was on the Disney Channel. It just got stuck in my head so I hummed it to myself.”
Whether her private version included parts of the sequel “Camp Rock 2” is unknown.
What is certain is the Vikings are headed to Greensboro to play for its ninth state softball championship after beating the Pam Pack 5-4 to sweep the 2A Eastern Regional Championship series. The Vikings, who won game one of the series 5-4 in 11 innings on Wednesday, won the 2015 state championship.
“I never want my players to make it seem like they’re playing for me,” said South Granville coach Walter Day. “This is a loose group. If they buy into the program, they’ll hustle for you in and out of practice. We don’t make them work that hard. It’s about having fun. If it’s not about having fun, it’s not worth doing.”
The NCHSAA 2A State Championship series begins Friday.
South Granville’s Hunter Mundy doubled in Brianne Coleman in the 7th to give the Vikings a 5-2 lead. It turned out to be insurance that was sorely needed.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Pam Pack (19-8) put runners at second and third with no out after Jada Lodge reached second base on a dropped ball in centerfield. Designated hitter Style McKissick grounded to third, but Lodge reached third when the Vikings botched a rundown.
Lodge scored off a RBI ground out by Washington’s Haley Whitham to narrow the game to 5-3. McKissick scored from third when pinch hitter Briley Waters got to first on a throwing error, but was thrown out trying to advance to second by right fielder McKenzie Coley. Vikings third baseman Madison Boyd caught a foul pop-up for the final out.
The Pam Pack opened the scoring in the second when Mary B. Dixon singled. After a bunt by Lodge, McKissick lined a RBI single to centerfield.
Washington pitcher Hailey Harris set down the first eleven Vikings she faced until Mundy drew a two-out walk in the top of the fourth. Megan White, who delivered a game-tying, two-run homer in the seventh on Wednesday to send it to extra innings, laced a double off the centerfield fence to tie the game 1-1.
The Vikings scored in each of the last four innings. After the second inning, Barker set down nine in a row.
“After we scored and had some run support, her pitches started moving a lot more,” said White, a catcher. “She wasn’t scared to throw them. She threw great.”
Madison Boyd singled to opened the fourth, went to second on a bunt, advanced to 3rd on a wild pitch, then scored on a ball hit back to the pitcher’s circle Aniya Jackson, who reached on an error.
Leading 2-1 in the sixth, White scored off an RBI ground out by Boyd. Then Coley doubled off the centerfield fence to plate Abbi Colcough.
For White, she and many of her teammates will be playing for their second straight state championship next weekend.
“I think I’ll be more nervous this time,” said White. “Last year, we went in with a blank mindset and just played ball. This year.....I’m just excited.”