Even in strange surroundings, the South Granville Vikings found themselves in familiar territory during Thursday’s showdown against chief rival Bunn in the third round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 2A softball playoffs.
Second-seeded South Granville, the defending state champion, flashed its postseason experience and savvy while eliminating the No. 10 seed Wildcats by an 11-3 margin in a game that was played at a neutral-site field at Northern Durham High School.
The event had already been postponed twice due to rain, and South Granville’s field was still unplayable Thursday, which forced the switch to Durham County.
Vikings’ coach Jackie Day wasn’t sure what site will be utilized for today’s state quarterfinal meeting with Eastern Randolph. If South Granville (21-1) still can’t play on campus, Ray expects Northern Durham to once again be a logical choice.
That decision, however, wasn’t on Day’s mind heading into his club’s third contest this season against Northern Carolina Conference foe Bunn (19-3). The Vikings’ lone defeat of the 2016 campaign came three weeks ago at Bunn – a victory that broke the Wildcats’ three-game losing skid to South Granville, including two setbacks in last year’s East Region finals.
“There is nothing wrong with a loss,” Day said, even though his tradition-rich program doesn’t experience many of them. “It kinds of brings you back into perspective with that can happen to you. Bunn has a great team. That was a turning point for us.”
Said South Granville catcher Megan White: “That game showed us that, even though we are the defending state champions, we can still be beat. It unified us.”
During that game, Bunn mound ace Erica Davis registered a shutout against the Vikings. In the rematch, South Granville delivered 11 hits, including a three-run homer from White that helped break open the contest in the bottom of the second.
South Granville plated two runs in the bottom of the first, and Bunn stranded three runners in scoring position over the initial two frames. With one run already home in the bottom of the second, White ripped a no-doubt blast far beyond the fence in left-centerfield.
“That felt good as soon as I hit it,” White said. “I felt like it was (a home run) right when I hit it.”
The Vikings scored in all but one inning (the bottom of the fourth), while Bunn left 12 runners on base, thanks in part to some timely glove work from the stingy South Granville defense.
“We just could not capitalize with the baserunners we had,” said Wildcats’ coach Melanie Lovin. “We had our chances.”
Said Day: “We were really good on defense. We made the routine plays, and we also made some outstanding plays.”
South Granville pitcher Miranda Barker, who spearheaded the Vikings’ title run last season, helped her cause in the top of the second by snaring a hot liner back to the mound – and turning it into a double play instead of a potential RBI single. On three different occasions, Barker worked her way out of jams that featured two or more Bunn runners on base, including a bases-loaded escape in the top of the third.
The Wildcats collected eight hits for the game, with the most important base knock coming courtesy of Mary Elizabeth Stevenson’s two-run single in the fifth.
Stevenson’s heroics brought Bunn back to within 7-3, but the Vikings gained some distance with a three-spot in the sixth that featured doubles from Barker and Brianne Coleman.
The outing was the final one in the careers of Bunn seniors and tri-captains Davis, Stephanie Williams and Charlotte Murphy – all of whom were four-year starters. The Wildcats have a combined 59-10 record over the past three seasons.
“Our seniors have carried the load for us since they were freshmen,” Lovin said. “They have grown tremendously and have been the reason we have been so successful. Our younger players have some big shoes to fill.”