RALEIGH — Six runs along with strong pitching by Autumn Martin helped the top-seeded North Stokes softball team walk off the diamond Saturday afternoon just a game away from a state title.
The Vikings defeated No. 1 Camden County 6-0 to take the first matchup of the NCHSAA Class 1-A championship at Dail Softball Stadium on the campus of N.C. State. The second game of the best-of-three series is scheduled for 8 p.m.
Martin's outing in the circle lasted all seven innings, as the Vikings (28-1) took a lead in the series — that much closer to clinching the team's second Class 1-A title in school history, with the first coming in 2014. If the series splits, with Camden County claiming Game 2, a third matchup will be played Sunday at 3:30 p.m.
Martin threw 105 pitches, recording 10 strikeouts without a walk.
"I pitched really good — probably my best game I've ever thrown," said Martin, who held Camden County to just two hits, from Kamryn Nash and Nicole Villardi. "Everything was pretty much working. It was just the fact that I knew I had my team behind me."
Martin appeared to not miss a beat after a shakeup in scheduling for the start of the championship series. The Vikings were originally set to face the Bruins (26-2) on Friday at 7:30 p.m., but inclement weather moving across the Research Triangle about two hours before first pitch forced the NCHSAA to postpone the game.
Coach Jeff Frye of North Stokes said it gave the team more time to focus and enjoy the series.
"To be honest, not playing Friday really helped us a little bit," Frye said. "We actually went and got dinner later on, and it actually gave us a little more quality time."
And it took all of four batters, before North Stokes gained an early lead in the bottom of the first.
With starter Hailey Bunting in the circle, Allee Boles grounded to second with Sydney Tatum reaching on an error — one of five by Camden County in the game. It allowed Carley Gravely to score from third, and for the Vikings to push ahead 1-0.
And then came the bottom of the fourth.
With a 2-2 count, Sydney Mabe tripled to the right field fence to score Sierra Hubbard from third. It turned into a three-run inning, as Brittany Murray followed with an RBI single.
Gravely then singled, and Bunting was relieved by Samantha Smith. Bunting threw 74 pitches with three strikeouts and two walks.
Murray later scored to give North Stokes a 4-0 lead.
Mabe came back in the bottom of the fifth with an RBI single, before Hubbard finished with an RBI double in the sixth.
Frye thought Mabe's performance was crucial at an early stage in the series.
"It was huge," Frye said. "When you throw a (three-run inning) up there, you're putting more pressure on the other team. Especially, at this stage of the ballgame, they've already got enough pressure on them already.
"Coming from behind and trying to fight back, I'd rather them be doing that than us."
North Stokes 6 Camden County 0
Autumn Martin and Sydney Mabe; Hailey Bunting, Samantha Smith (4), Lexi Jones (6) and Skylar Hyatt. WP — Autumn Martin. LP —Hailey Bunting. Records — North Stokes (28-1), Camden County (26-2).