North Stokes defeated East Surry three different times this season, but on Thursday dropped the conference championship matchup in a disappointing 7-5 lost.
“We made too many mistakes in the first inning to overcome,” said Viking coach Jeff Frye. “We hit the ball tonight unlike our other two losses on the season. We hit it hard, but we couldn’t find the holes.”
The coach praised pitcher Sierra Hubbard, but said he wished the defense would have been more solid behind her.
The Cardinals plated three unearned runs in the first inning when Bethany Clayton began the game with a bunt that went over the outstretched glove of Hubbard. Hali Scott pushed Clayton to third on another bunt and Autumn Lawson hit a shot to centerfield that was mishandled and scored both runners for the 2-0 lead. Grace Kiser sacrificed pinch runner Leah Hayes to second and then crossed home plate on a two out double by catcher Allie Brunner ending the inning 3-0 in favor of East.
The Vikings put two runs on the board off a double by shortstop Carley Gravely. She scored on a double by Autumn Martin and then touched home on a single by Lora Wood.
Over the next fiving innings the game turned into a pitching duel with Hubbard earning eight strikeouts and Lawson facing the minimum batters in three of the fiving innings.
East Surry put pressure on the Vikings and scored four times in the seventh frame. Anna-Kate Badgett began the inning with a walk and Clayton and Scott lined and struck out. The next four Cardinal batters reached base safely and Brunner’s double plated Kiser and Maggie Holt for the 7-2 advantage.
North Stokes didn’t lie down and came battling back in their last at bat. Gravely singled with one out and then moved to second on an error by the Cardinals’ shortstop. Martin belted a hit to right field scoring Gravely and Sydney Mabe ground out to second base plating Reid Hawkins. Allee Boles kept things going with a base hit pushing Martin across, but Wood ended the game on a hard line drive back to Lawson.
“We gave it a fight,” Frye said with a smile. “It’s hard beating a team three times and we were trying to do it for a fourth. East is a good quality team that we may face again in the state playoffs.”
After the game, Gravely, Hubbard, Boles and South Stokes Raegan Badgett were named to the 1A all-tournament team. Martin and Clayton were named co-conference players of the year and Frye was named coach of the year. Lawson was the tournament’s MVP.
The Vikings completed their regular season 20-3 and received the overall number one seed in the NCHSAA 1A state playoffs. They received a bye in the first round that starts on Wednesday. East Surry (15-6), a 10 seed, will host Highland School of Technology.
Robert Money can be reached at 336-749-1193.