North Stokes baseball was hoping to match last year’s fourth round state playoff run since it started well with a 7-0 victory over Highland School of Technology on Wednesday. A 5-1 loss to Polk County on Saturday in the second round left the team in disbelief as the season ended abruptly.
“Our bats went cold at the wrong time of the year,” said Viking coach Stephen Sauer. “Some of our better bats struggled at the same time, and in a light hitting team, that cannot happen in order for us to be successful. Losing our starting catcher, Noah Smith to a torn labrum and rotator cuff a few weeks ago has really hurt us. Isaac Wood stepped in and did a heck of a job and we really appreciate that.”
The Vikings took a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning after Dustin Bowman doubled and then scored on a throwing error by the Wolverines.
Senior Layton Helms breezed into the sixth inning until things started to unravel for the Vikings. Helms walked their number eight batter and then a wild pitch and a passed ball moved him to third. The home team attempted a squeeze bunt, but the Vikings bobbled the ball and got no one out as the run crossed the plate. After another error and three hits later, Polk County had tallied five runs and held a 5-1 advantage.
Bowman had a double and scored the Vikings only run, while Koby Clark drew two walks and the only other hit North had in the game. Helms pitched six innings allowing four hits, three earned runs, three walks, and seven strikeouts.
On Wednesday against Highland, Jake Craddock led the Vikings with three hits, a run and a RBI. He also pitched a six hit shutout with nine strikeouts and no walks. Joey Bullins slammed a homerun in the fifth inning to break the game open.
“The season was very positive overall,” Sauer said. “It was the best start in school history and another 17 win season. The expectations were to make another run, but that did not happen. Of course there is disappointment, but I believe we have accomplished a winning mentality that the kids have bought into. Losing Layton will be super tough and replacing Koby’s versatility will be difficult, but we’ll return seven starters and a very deep pitching staff. I feel we have everything in place and in a great spot for the program to be in right now.”
Robert Money can be reached at 336-749-1193.