It’s time for South Granville softball to lengthen that Columbia blue state championship banner stretching from the right-field foul pole to center field. The Vikings need room to list another title.
South Granville completed a two-game sweep of Franklin in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 2A championship series with a 7-0 victory Sunday afternoon at UNC-Greensboro. The win followed a 12-inning, 3-2 triumph Saturday night to complete an unbeaten 27-0 season.
The 2018 championship earned a place alongside listings of previous titles captured in 1987, 1989, 1990, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2015 and 2016 – not to mention the state runner-up finishes, regional titles and playoff appearances.
Yes, South Granville is a dynasty, winning its third state title in four years, but they don’t take it lightly. They’re still rankled about settling for runner-up in 2017.
“Doesn’t this feel a lot better than last year?” South Granville coach Jackie Day asked his players after the awards ceremony.
Nobody knows better than captains Brianne Coleman and Megan White, the team’s only seniors. They came in as freshman and sophomores accepting titles as routine. Then last year hit them like a line drive to the gut.
“It means a lot to be able to go out our last year with a state championship,” said Coleman, the left fielder. “We also know we came back from last year’s loss and did what we do best – leave with a state championship.”
Coleman stroked her 14th home run of the year over the straightaway center field fence for a 4-0 lead in the top of the sixth. Not to be outdone by her four-year varsity teammate, White hit her 10th homer, a two-run shot over the left fence for a 7-0 lead in the top of the sixth.
“Bri and I are powerful and disciplined hitters, and I think we showed that in the last game,” said White, the catcher. “The pitcher was getting tired and getting down on herself. She left balls in the zone and we took them for a ride.”
The Vikings went up 3-0 early. After Grace Calus singled, Jordan Talley’s pop-up was misplayed and then Emma Jones singled to load the bases. Jenna Curry followed with a sacrifice fly to left that turned into three runs. Calus tagged and scored easily, but when Franklin pitcher Halei Bryson cut off the throw home in an attempt to catch Talley tagging from second to third, she threw the ball down the left field line, allowing Talley and Jones to round the bases.
Calus and Talley contributing as the Nos. 8 and 9 hitters was an example of South Granville’s balanced lineup on both sides of the ball.
On the mound, freshman Brooke Bowling was unflappable. She wasn’t as sharp on Saturday, but she stranded 15 batters – 10 in the seven innings of regulation. On Sunday, she stranded four in five innings before recording 1-2-3 innings in the sixth and seventh – including back-to-back Ks for the final two outs.
“If she get s down, she gets right back up,” Jones said. “She knows how to handle herself on the field, and we keep her pumped up. She’s a freshman, but I’ve never played with a better pitcher.”
South Granville seemingly checked all the boxes this year. All that is left is to lengthen and list another title on that banner.
Game 1: South Granville wins 3-2
In Saturday night’s game, Franklin senior pitcher Haeli Bryson had frustrated the Vikings. She retired 21 of 23 batters during a stretch of holding the Vikings scoreless from the second through the 11th.
Jones, the South Granville shortstop, ended the Saturday marathon 3-2 in the 12th inning in a dramatic fashion. Her game-winning double helped earn her MVP honors for the series and represented the poise all the Vikings play with.
South Granville scored both of its first-inning runs on wild pitches to take a 2-1 lead, but Franklin tied it in the top of the fourth.
With Calus on first base and two outs in the bottom of the 12th of a 2-2 tie, Jones lined a drive deep to right field that skipped inches foul into the fence. That letdown might have taken the wind out of most sophomores, but Jones plays like a senior. With two strikes on her, she slammed a drive to the left-center field fence that scored Calus.
“I told myself, ‘You got this. You’re doing it. Don’t let it get in head,’” Jones recalled on Sunday. “Usually you think about what she was going to bring right up to that. I was thinking, ‘See it out of her hand. Hit the ball.’ It all came out right there.”
In Saturday’s game, Jones was 3-of-6 with a run scored and the walk-off RBI (she was 1-of-5 with a run scored on Sunday).
Bowling had 13 strikeouts and threw 186 pitches on Saturday. The three-hour game followed a six-hour wait from the originally scheduled 2 p.m. start time. And that was after Friday night’s game was postponed until Saturday.