South Granville put the finishing touches on an 11-7 decision over North Johnston in a N.C. High School Athletic Association 2A fourth-round softball playoff game that was the antithesis of the baseball contest.
The hard-hitting clubs combined for 21 hits, but the unbeaten Vikings (24-0) were able to survive in the slugfest and move into a regional final series versus Eastern Randolph – a squad South Granville topped back in 2016 en route to winning its second consecutive state championship (and ninth in school history).
The Vikings gave up a season-high runs total but were able to counter each North Johnston (20-6) surge with one of its own.
“There was definitely a lot of offense,” said South Granville junior catcher Megan White. “We knew coming in that North Johnston has a good-hitting team, so it didn’t faze us when they got some runs.”
North Johnston’s Jada Santiago, a junior slugger, helped the Panthers erase an early deficit with a two-run blast (her 10th of the season) in the top of the third stanza that tied the score at 3-3.
South Granville responded with a four-spot in the bottom of the third as freshman second baseman Ally Goss – one of four freshman starters for the Vikings – smacked the first home run of her high school career.
The Panthers drew back to within 7-6 in the fourth before the Vikings added some space with a three-run fifth that featured two costly North Johnston errors.
“(The offensive fireworks) in this game didn’t surprise me,” said Panthers coach Chris Batten. “Both teams can hit the ball well. But the surprising part to me that our defense didn’t play well.”
White, the state finals MVP last season, tacked on some insurance with a solo homer in the sixth.
“When you get to this point in the year, you know that every opponent is going to be on top of its game,” said South Granville coach Jackie Day. “So you have to be on top of yours. You’re just trying to get through to that next round.”
North Johnston won’t be able to experience that feeling this time around, but Batten is upbeat about the future of his program with the pending graduation of just three seniors – Taylor Narron, Kelly White and Hannah Lester.
“We have some good players back and about eight girls coming up from the middle school,” Batten said. “Everything is in good shape. The leadership component is what will be a key for us next year.”