Bullock slams, Laws holds, South Granville shuts out Bunn
Posted May 13, 2016
Updated May 14, 2016
Bunn, N.C. — Touted as one of the most competitive and evenly-matched rivalries one could expect to see in the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 2-A baseball playoffs, Friday night's game between the Bunn Wildcats and the South Granville Vikings left nearly all of Bunn's sell-out crowd in shock.
The No. 15 Vikings, who lost to the No. 2 Wildcats twice during the regular season, got the last laugh by going on the road and playing five nearly-flawless innings of baseball. After running the lead up to double digits, the Wildcats utilized the mercy rule and walked off the field two innings early with a 12-0 win and thoughts of the third round already starting.
"We know that we're a team that's able to beat them," said South Granville's Justin Bullock, who played at first base. "We know what they have, they know what we have, we just had to play baseball. It came down to who had more heart. They had it during the regular season, but tonight, I think we showed that we had more heart, and we played Viking baseball."
The Vikings scored in all but one inning, loading the bases in each of the first three. The team enjoyed its first major leap in momentum when, after a single and two walks to start the second inning, Bullock powered a grand slam over the center-field wall, hitting the scoreboard and giving the Vikings a 6-0 lead.
Bullock, an NC State recruit, went 3-4 just a few days after moving from his familiar spot in the order.
"He's been my three-hitter for the last two or three years," said South Granville Head Coach Curt Watkins. "Last week, I had to change something. We were in a funk and I moved my best hitter to the one-hole. It pays off when you can get guys on base, your bottom is hitting, and a guy comes up with the bases loaded."
Holden Laws, also an NC State recruit, got the start on the mound for the Vikings. A sophomore who played with the poise of a senior, Laws struck out seven batters and gave up just one hit. He also sent a ball out of the park for a solo home run to start the third inning and push the Viking lead to 8-0.
Starting a playoff game against a conference rival is a tall order, but Laws said he was up for it. He also praised his defense for playing well behind him.
"My adrenaline was rushing, but I just took a deep breath every time I backed off the mound," Laws said. "I felt really confident."
Every South Granville player reached base at some point in the game. The Vikings wasted no time scoring runs. In the first inning, Austin Bailey and Justin Brown both walked. Clay Walters then singled to load the bases, and Spencer Shifflett singled next to score two runs.
After Bullock's second-inning grand slam, the Vikings scored an additional run when Bailey came home on a wild pitch to push the lead to 7-0.
"It's not coach-speak, I really do feel like, for three years, we've overachieved," said Bunn Head Coach Christopher Cullom. "We don't have dominant pitching, at all. We survive on not walking people and not making errors, and tonight we did both of those things, and we paid dearly for it."
Josh Boone started at pitcher for Bunn, but the Wildcats would go on to sub in three additional pitchers. Nick Sanders, Spencer Brickhouse and Connor McKeithan all spent time on the mound.
Several minutes after Laws hit his homer for an eight-run lead, Brown drew a walk. He scored later in the inning on another Bunn error.
"We had lost to them twice already, in two weeks," Bullock said. "In practice, we went out there and practiced to play for Bunn. We knew we had to be prepared for their pitching, so we shortened everything up. We tried to play as a team, and not individuals."
One more error gave South Granville a 10-0 lead in the top of the fifth. Then, Walters singled to score two more runs. In accordance with the NCHSAA rule, the game ended after five innings were completed, since the Vikings had a double-digit lead.
The Vikings will wait to face the winner of a Saturday game between North Lenoir and South Lenoir.
After the game, Cullom had nothing but praise for his decorated senior class, the parents of his players and the supportive Bunn community.
"Only one team's going to win a state championship, so at some point in time, you're probably going to be disappointed with a loss," Cullom said. "But, for those kids, anything short of a state championship was not good enough for them, because they're just an awesome group."
Cullom said his group of seniors will leave the Bunn program with almost every individual and team record. As sophomores in 2014, the group helped the Wildcats to 22 wins--the best win-total in program history. The group won 41 additional games in the next two years.
"As a coach, I'm not upset that they're leaving," Cullom said. "We'll replace players. But, the bond that I have with them is going to be incredibly tough for me to replace."
The third round of the 2-A playoffs begins Monday.
Follow Zach Mayo on Twitter at @ZachMayoHSOT