Bailey Culler hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth to lift North Surry past Surry Central in Western Piedmont 2A Conference softball on Friday night.
With the 3-2 win, the Greyhounds (15-1 overall, 7-1 WPC) move into a tie with Forbush atop the league standings. The Falcons were off on Friday.
Culler, a senior shortstop, took a 2-1 offering from Eagles’ starter Cassidy Joyner over the fence in left field to cap off a wild game between county rivals.
“Great players make great plays,” North coach Willie Hodges said. “That’s the game right there. We had to hit it. They’ve been playing great ball and working hard in practice. They want to win some ball games.”
Marlee Bunker earned the win in the pitcher’s circle for the Greyhounds. She gave up two runs, scattered three hits, walked one and struck out eight while going the distance.
Bunker retired all six batters she faced in extra innings.
“They have some big hitters,” Hodges said of Surry Central’s lineup. “She kept them off balance all night.”
Still, the Greyhounds found themselves trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh inning. Cidney Fulk drew a walk and Aubrey Hall put the ball in play and reached first on a Central error. With Fulk rounding third, the Eagles committed another error to allow her to score the tying run.
Central coach Glenn Craddock argued the ball hit by Hall deflected off her foot and should have been ruled dead. The plate umpire conferred with the base umpire, but the play stood.
Culler attempted a squeeze play in the Greyhounds’ next at-bat, but Joyner tagged Hall out at the plate for the first out. Bunker hit a sac bunt to move Culler over, but Joyner got the next batter to ground out.
“It never should have gone extra innings,” Craddock said. “They are a good ball team. They had a little luck go their way.”
Neither team could get on the scoreboard until the bottom of the fifth. Bunker hit a two-out double and scored on an RBI double from Taylor Hill.
In the top of the sixth, Katlin Anthony singled and Sam Cox hit a grounder to move her to second. Kendra Johnson reached on an error and Anthony scored on the play to tie the game. Johnson was caught in a run-down between first and second to end the inning.
In the top of the seventh, Joyner reached when Bunker’s third strike got past catcher Katlyn Hodges. Kristin Key hit a shallow single in the gap, and Allie Hammond hit a sac bunt to move Joyner to third. She scored on a squeeze bunt from Ashley Craddock, diving head first across home plate past Hodges for a 2-1 Eagles lead.
Bunker settled down and got a strikeout and flyout to end the inning and give North a chance in the bottom of the seventh.
“They’re always tough,” Hodges said of Surry Central. “I think we’ll see them again in the conference tournament.”
North has a big week next week, beginning with South Stokes at home on Monday for senior night at 6 p.m. The Greyhounds visit 4A West Forsyth on Wednesday for a nonconference game and go to Forbush Friday.
Joyner took the loss. She allowed three runs off nine hits, walked two and struck out two. Central fell to 8-12 overall and 3-5 in conference play.
The Eagles lost their third in a row — but all of the losses have come to tough teams. Central fell 6-4 to South Stokes, a team ahead of the Eagles in the standings, and lost to West Forsyth. They’ll get another test on Tuesday when they travel to Forbush.
“I told them don’t hang your heads,” Craddock said. “They played a great ball game. It hurts to lose when you put your heart in it.”