PILOT MOUNTAIN —The North Stokes softball team might need its own personal section in the school’s trophy case thanks to the 2016 campaign.
After winning the Northwest Conference regular season championship with a perfect record, the Lady Vikings (18-1, 10-0) defeated East Surry 6-2 in the league’s tournament final on Friday night to complete a three-game sweep over the Lady Cardinals.
East Surry (19-5, 8-2) had its opportunity to spoil the North Stokes party, but Lady Viking pitcher Sierra Hubbard and a talented offense rose to the occasion when the clutch situations arrived.
“We don’t ever panic. There’s just something about these girls,” North Stokes coach Jeff Frye said. “We know we have the bats and we just try to stay patient no matter what’s happening.”
The Vikings entered the top of the sixth with a 3-0 lead and Hubbard tossing a no-hitter, but East Surry got a leadoff single from Serena Pickens and a walk from Bethany Clayton to put runners on first and second with no outs.
After a fielder’s choice, Emily Cummings and Autumn Lawson recorded back-to-back RBI singles to trim the deficit to 3-2.
However, Hubbard minimized the damage from there with a strikeout and a flyout, and her offense picked her up in the following inning with a three-run outburst.
East Surry committed three errors as the Vikings seized control with small-ball and aggression on the bases to earn a 6-2 lead heading into the seventh inning. Hubbard also chipped in with a RBI single, capping off a 2-3 night at the plate.
“We definitely would have liked to score more runs when we had that chance in the sixth,” East Surry coach Randy Marion said. “Against a good team like North Stokes, you’re not going to get very many opportunities. But the mistakes the next inning really hurt us just as much.”
North Stokes gained its first lead of the game in the bottom of the second. Ashley Smith led the inning off with a home run to center field, and just one out later, Hubbard doubled the lead with another solo homer over the center field wall. Those were the only runs that East Surry starting pitcher Autumn Lawson gave up on the evening.
Cummings, East Surry’s ace this season, came on in relief of Lawson in the third, but the two pitchers mixed innings throughout the rest of the game.
“North Stokes knows Emily just as well as I do, considering how many times they’ve faced her over the past three years,” Coach Marion said. “We just wanted to give them a different look, because Emily and Autumn are two completely different pitchers.”
“Autumn is so good throwing inside, but she just didn’t get two pitches far enough inside tonight. Otherwise, I think they both pitched pretty well.”
In addition to the tournament title, the Vikings nearly swept the individual hardware that was handed out after the game. Frye won Northwest Coach of the Year and Hubbard’s stellar play this week earned her Most Outstanding Tournament Player. North Stokes’ Chandley Garner split the Player of the Year award with East Surry’s Cummings.
Both teams now await the upcoming seeding for the NCHSAA 1-A playoffs. North Stokes is likely to be the West’s top seed, while East Surry will host at least one game as the Northwest Conference’s No. 2 seed. The brackets will be released on Monday.
Reach Jackson at 415-4702 and on twitter @jacksonfuller16