PILOT MOUNTAIN — East Surry hung tough with North Stokes all the way to the end, but the Lady Vikings won 3-2 to clinch the Northwest Conference Tournament.
North Stokes won the regular-season title, beating East in both games.
Still, the Lady Cardinals looked like a contender from the start and battled to a 2-2 tie in the middle of the seventh. Then the Vikings won the game with a walk-off homer from catcher Ashley Smith.
North Stokes improved to 20-2 and a perfect 12-0 against NW competition. East Surry is 17-7, 9-3 against league foes; all three losses have come to the Vikings.
“As I said last time, this is a really good team,” East coach Randy Marion said of North Stokes. He said that he told his players to keep it close and give themselves a shot to win it late. And the Cards did just that — but they came up a little short.
The Cards nearly jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first.
With two outs, Amber Lawson doubled to left. Emily Cummings struck out on a pitch in the dirt, but made it safe to first with Lawson taking third.
Laken Bowman crushed a long fly ball down the third-base line, but instead of a three-run homer, the ball curved foul. Then she made an out to end the threat.
However, Bowman would get a second chance later.
In the third inning, a grounder tipped off the glove of East’s pitcher, and second baseman Sarah Moore didn’t have time to get to the ball and make a play. Then the Vikings hit a single up the middle to put two aboard.
A double steal put both runners in scoring position.
The next batter grounded to Moore, who made the sure out at first, then Brooke Bowman fired a ball across to third base to get the runner advancing from second. On a bang-bang play, the runner was ruled safe, and a run scored.
Sabrina Dodson then doubled in a run to make it 2-0.
In the top of the fourth, the Cards would answer.
Cumming hit a liner to center. Then Laken Bowman put one over the center field fence to tie the game 2-2.
In the sixth, the Cards had a chance to take the lead.
Olivia Sheets doubled past the first baseman to lead off with the heart of the order coming up.
Lawson grounded out, advancing Sheets to third.
Cummings hit a soft fly to the outfield, and Coach Marion held Sheets at third. Then Laken Bowman hit a long fly to the outfield to end the inning.
As for the long ball that ended the game, Marion said he has to take full responsibility for that.
He said he called the pitch and location, and Cummings did exactly what he asked. And still Ashley Smith put it out.
With the conclusion of the conference tournament, the Northwest All-Conference Team will be announced. Look for an article in a future edition of The News.