“I’m just tickled,” said Vikings pitcher Lindsay Brown moments after North Stokes received the NCHSAA 1A State Championship trophy for defeating Whiteville in the best out of three series held in Raleigh at the Walnut Creek Softball Complex Friday and Saturday.
Friday night’s 3-0 victory may have put the Lady Vikings at ease going into the second game, but it didn’t take long to realize the Wolfpack were formidable opponents and just as hungry for the state championship title.
In Saturday’s morning matchup Whiteville bust into the third inning with a six run lead. The Viks flubbed throws and handed the Wolfpack unearned bases.
“The second game was terrible. We couldn’t execute anything,” said North Stokes Coach Jeff Frye.
Momentum for both teams was slowed down with a contested issue of a thrown bat from Whiteville freshman Sage McLelland when she hit a double which ate into 20 minutes of the game (player was given a warning). Umpires also watched Wolfpack pitcher Malerie Leviner after she was said to have been pitching illegally by picking up her foot on the rubber instead of sliding it, according to umpires.
The Vikings rallied in the sixth inning with a triple from Heather Nall and a double by Brown bringing in two runs, but it wasn’t enough to grab the win and instead pushed North into game three.
In the two o’clock game the Lady Vikings claimed an early lead with a run in the first inning by Sabrina Dodson. The junior walked, then stole second base and then third. Off a wild pitch, she slid into home. Two weeks ago Dodson suffered a hamstring injury that kept her from playing against Hiwassee Dam but after recovering she came into the state playoffs with her eye on the prize.
“When I was out, I knew my team had it under control, I never doubted it for a second. I wouldn’t have wanted to be here with any other group of girls,” Dodson said.
The Lady Vikings continued to hammer the ball and move around the bases. Brown hit a solid single and Hannah McBride came in as a designated runner. The athletic senior stole second and made her way to third. Heather Nall popped up bringing McBride in and moving the score to 2-0.
From the stands North began looking like the confident and determined team they’ve been throughout their successful season. One obvious indication came when they began utilizing their push bunting strategy, a strength for them that moves opponents out of position and advances their runners through the confusion.
But the Vikingsluck took a nose dive in the bottom of the second when shortstop Chandley Garner was covering second and in an attempt for a double play a Wolfpack player plowed past her knocking Garner to the dirt.
“She was in pain. It isn’t like her to scream or holler. When I ran out there to her I could see things were shifted out of place,” Frye said.
Garner was carried off the field and the Lady Vikings didn’t fight back tears, but kept playing.
North had a change up in the field after Garner’s injury. Dodson took shortstop and Tristan Hubbard covered first base. Whiteville rallied with solid singles and the Wolfpack loaded the bases with just one out.
North buckled down defensively with an impressive catch from second baseman, Tana Frye but Brown walked one in, the only run Whiteville would see in the game.
The Lady Vikings clenched game three 10-1 catapulting them to NCHSAA 1A State Champions.
“I wanted this for the girls. It isn’t about these last three games, it’s about everything that’s happened up until this point,” Frye said.
Frye credits his team for facing obstacles throughout the season but confronting each one head on.
“We kept this on the back burner as the main goal, but our focus was always on one game at a time,” Frye said. “They did an excellent job today and I couldn’t be prouder.”