Vikings hang on for berth in state softball semifinals
Savannah Tilley’s three-run, first-inning homer and a bit of good fortune late lifted South Granville past Wilson Beddingfield 6-4 on Tuesday and into the best-of-three state 2-A semifinals beginning Thursday.
The Vikings, who have won seven state softball titles in their history — two in fastpitch, five slowpitch and the most recent in 1998 — almost didn’t get into the semifinals as the reigning champion Bruins came back late.
South Granville (22-1) made it look easy at the start. Erin Boone led off the bottom of the first with a walk and starting pitcher Kasey Newcomb singled to right, advancing Boone to third. Boone came in on a sacrifice fly by Jenna Davis, Hunter Mundy walked and Tilley’s three-run blast to the right of the flag pole in center made it 4-0.
Meanwhile, Newcomb was cruising along, not giving up a hit until the third, helped by some outstanding outfield grabs by her defense. In the fourth, Beddingfield (22-5) scratched out a run on a pair of singles and a walk. But Newcomb caught a break when opposing pitcher Brooke Jones inexplicably stopped at first on what appeared to be an easy RBI double off the fence in left.
South Granville got it back in the fifth on a one-out triple by Boone and a groundout RBI by Taylor Boyd.
The Bruins got two in the sixth on back-to-back home runs by Jenna Pate and Jones, both to center with one out to cut the lead to 5-3 and bring Newcomb’s pitching night to an end.
Vikings’ coach Jackie Day swapped Newcomb and first baseman Davis, a move that surprised many because Davis had only made four appearances this season, encompassing just 4.2 innings pitched.
“They’ve seen you a couple times, they get on to you,” Day said of the home runs off winner Newcomb (21-1), just the fifth and sixth she had allowed all season, the first back-to-back. “It doesn’t matter if you have a 1.21 ERA. They hadn’t seen Davis.”
Davis gave up an infield single to the first batter she faced and an error put runners on first and second, still with one out. A wild pitch put the potential tying and winning runs in scoring position, but Davis retired the side on an infield popup and a fly to right.
South Granville added an insurance run in the bottom of the inning on a leadoff single by Mundy, a wild pitch, an errant pickoff attempt and an RBI single by catcher Karlee Michalina.
The Vikings 6-3 lead looked solid heading into the seventh, but it almost wasn’t.
After allowing a single to Nickie Womble, Davis got No. 2 hitter Caroline Smith on a pop to short for the first out. And on came the drama.
Davis snared a comebacker to the mound that could have started a game-ending double play. Instead, her throw to second sailed away for an error, bringing the potential tying run to the plate in Pate and Jones. Davis got Pate to pop to first and walked Jones to load the bases.
Davis then botched another comebacker for her second error of the inning, allowing Womble to score, making it 6-4 with the bases still loaded.
Michalina saved the day, as the catcher moved quickly from behind the plate to snare a low foul pop by Leigh Warren a couple of strides behind her to end the game.
“That about killed me,” Day said with a smile about the end-of-game drama. “But it’s good it happened now. Maybe we got it out of our system. There ain’t no gimmes this time of year. They’re a good team — they won it last year — and you saw how they came back. And teams are just going to get better as we go farther along.”
NOTES — Day’s appearance in the state quarterfinals was his first in three years at South Granville. ... The Vikings will host fellow semifinalist Deep Run South Lenoir (22-3) at 7 p.m. Thursday. Game two of the East Regionals will be played Friday in Deep Run and game three, if needed, will be played at South Granville on Saturday.
S. Granville 6, Beddingfield 4
Brooke Jones and Jenna Pate; Kasey Newcomb, Jenna Davis (6) and Karlee Michalina. W—Newcomb (21-1), L—Jones, SV—Davis. Leading hitters—Beddingfield, Jones 2-3 (HR, 2 RBI), Jenna Pate 1-3 (HR, RBI); South Granville, Savannah Tilley 1-3 (HR, 3 RBI), Erin Boone 1-2 (3B), Newcomb 1-2 (RBI), Davis 1-2 (2B, RBI).
Records—Beddingfield 22-5, South Granville 22-1.