PILOT MOUNTAIN — Sabrina Dodson and Chandley Garner homered for North Stokes during a 10-2 win against East Surry in Northwest 1A Conference softball on Wednesday at Palmer Field.
With the victory, the Vikings (17-2, 9-0) clinched the regular season conference title.
North, the top-ranked team in Maxpreps’ 1A state rankings, hits up and down the lineup, plays solid defense, and rides the arm of senior hurler Lindsey Brown.
The Vikings get everyone’s best shot.
“We’re ranked No. 1 in the state, and that puts a lot of pressure on us,” coach Jeff Frye of North Stokes said. “(The players) do a lot better handling it than I do. They have to tell me to calm down.”
This one was a tight game until the fifth inning.
Dodson’s two-run shot in the first inning off sophomore lefty Emily Cummings provided the first runs of the game for the Vikings.
East was right with North. Kelsey Martin hit a bunt single and moved over on a sacrifice from Olivia Sheets. Cummings drove in Martin with a base hit. Laken Bowman singled, and Lauren Sechrist had a base hit to score pinch runner Serena Pickens for the Cards’ second run of the game.
Garner’s RBI single in the fourth drove in Emily Myers for a 3-2 North lead.
In the top of the fifth, Emily Evans and Brown strung together back-to-back base hits. East committed two errors in the next at-bat, allowing pinch runner Hannah McBride to score. Ashley Smith smashed a two-run double and Garner, a freshman, followed with a rocket over the fence in center field to score two runs and make it 8-2.
“We struggled at first,” Frye said. “Emily’s changeup was working. I don’t think she had the changeup the first time we played them. We had to make an adjustment.”
Cummings took the loss for East (15-6 overall, 7-2 conference). North finished with 11 hits and the Cards had seven.
East had a couple of chances late in the game to start a rally. Amber Lawson drew a leadoff walk in the bottom of the fifth and Cummings had a base hit. But Brown settled down and got a popout and two flyouts to end the inning.
Trailing 10-2 heading into the bottom of the seventh, Brooke Whittington doubled and Sarah Moore reached on a walk. Brown got a strikeout, and North turned a double play to end the game.
“(North) hit the ball well. That is a very good softball team, 1A through 4A,” coach Randy Marion of East Surry said. “That was for a share of the conference championship, so it’s a little discouraging, but I’m happy with the improvement we showed from the first time we played them.”
Earlier this season, East fell 7-0 to North in Danbury, striking out 11 times. On Wednesday, they struck out five times. East also scored two runs on a Vikings’ team that hadn’t allowed a single run in its previous nine conference games this season.
North is battle-tested though, with its only two losses coming to nationally-ranked 4A softball powerhouse Alexander Central by a 4-0 score and to a much-improved South Stokes team by a 5-4 final.
Evans, a freshman for North, has put up big numbers against the Cards this season. She went 4 for 4 with two doubles at the plate on Wednesday.
“She went 4 for 4 the first time we played them, so she’s 8 for 8 against us. We can’t get her out,” Marion said.
A win over Walkertown on Friday would lock up second place for the Cards in the conference standings. The Wolfpack will come in with a 6-3 league record.
East hosts the semifinals and finals of the conference tournament next week. With either Cummings or the right-hander Bowman in the pitcher’s circle, Marion likes his chances against anyone.
“Emily has worked hard on her changeup. She’s getting confidence and it’s worked for her so far,” Marion said. “I’m proud of what the girls have done. They’ve fought all season.”