Softball is played low and in the dirt. That’s the philosophy that’s guided South Granville softball to the brink of another N.C. High School Athletic Association 2A state championship, according to coach Walter Day.
“If you put the ball low and in the dirt, good things are going to happen for you,” said Day. “You have to hit it low and in the dirt. It works.”
However his Vikings hit the ball, it seems to work.
Trailing 4-2 going into the seventh inning of Game 1 in the NCHSAA East regional final series, catcher Megan White slammed a two-run homer to right field to send the game into extra innings. In the 11th, center fielder Savannah Tilley clinched the victory with a walk-off homer to right.
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In Washington on Friday, White warmed up South Granville’s cold bats with a two-out double off the centerfield fence to score Hunter Mundy, who drew a walk in the previous at-bat. In the seventh inning, Mundy slammed another double off the fence to score Brianne Coleman in what turned out to be the game-winning run in a 5-4 Vikings victory.
“If you let the ball travel deep enough and go to the right field gap, you’re going to score a run,” said Day. “It’s all about those runs. It came at a premium in Washington. There aren’t many high scoring games there.”
South Granville (24-1) will look to repeat its 2A state championship, and earn its ninth state championship overall, this weekend at the UNC-Greensboro Spartans Softball Complex against West Lincoln. The best-of-three series starts Friday night.
The Rebels (25-2) captured the West regional championship by rallying from a game down in the best-of-three series against Forbush, last year’s state runner-up. They won the final two games of the series 8-7 and 2-0.
While the Vikings’ offense came through against the Pam Pack, junior pitcher Miranda Barker has been a juggernaut all season. With a 21-1 mark, Barker has thrown five shutouts, struck out 137 batters as opposed to 23 walks and has 19 complete games in 22 starts.
“She knows how to play the game,” said Day. “And it’s their game anyway, isn’t it? We (the coaches) can’t control that. Their effort is their effort. You can count on her to be there for you every time.”
In Game 2 against Washington, Barker retired 10 in a row after giving up a run in the second inning.
It could have been easy for Barker to lose her poise in the seventh. South Granville’s went into the inning leading 5-2, but the first two batters reached to start the bottom of the seventh.
So Barker, with the balance of the game at stake, began humming songs from “Camp Rock,” a made-for-TV movie she stumbled on the Disney Channel while channel surfing last week.
Though she gave up two runs, she still got out with the victory in the seventh after third baseman Chrissy McKissick got a foul pop-up.
“You just don't think about it,” said Barker with a shrug. “Coach Day is kind of laid back. If we keep messing around too much, he’ll make us run. But other than that, we just sit back, have fun and win the game.”
Barker had to throw more than 150 pitches in the 11 inning victory last Wednesday on a humid 90-degree day.
“After the game, I felt like I was dead,” said Barker. “I felt like I couldn’t move. It was just so late and we had been playing for over three hours. On Friday, I felt fine. You just ice it and get over it.”