HENDERSON — Vance Charter endured a tough test in the opening round of the NCHSAA 1A Softball State Championship against Pamlico County on Monday evening, but kept its perfect season alive with an 8-3 victory.
Head coach Brian Bunn was hoping for a more well-rounded performance to open postseason play, but credited his players for keeping their composure after committing a handful of errors that allowed Pamlico County to stay in the game.
“We started strong, got flat in the middle of the innings but then finished strong,” Bunn said. “In playoff ball, you can’t go flat, but you have to start and finish strong and do the little things. That’s what we did tonight.”
After senior pitcher Jordan Dunn kept Pamlico County scoreless on top of the mound, junior Charly Cooper proceeded to hit a triple, allowing Vance Charter to find the momentum needed to pull ahead 2-0.
Neither team scored in the second inning, but Pamlico County loaded the bases in the top of the third. Three runners ended up scoring for Pamlico County to give them a 3-2 advantage.
In the bottom of the fourth, junior Makayla Simmons drove in fellow junior Bailey Deake to even up the score. Vance Charter retook control of the lead in the bottom of the fifth after a triple by Dunn enabled her and Cooper to reach home.
Vance Charter’s outfield remained strong by halting Pamlico County with a well-executed double play at the top of the sixth. Three more runners scored for Vance Charter at the bottom of the inning to effectively end Pamlico County’s season.
Bunn anticipated that Pamlico County’s pitching would be a problem for Vance Charter. He thought that came true during the middle of the game with a lot of his players getting striking out or hitting pop-ups.
While he intends to work on some of those minor issues before Wednesday, he said the strength of Vance Charter is the experience and camaraderie of his players, which he knows will be needed for the program to make a run at a state championship.
“Good teams pick each other up when they are struggling,” Bunn said. “This team is a prime example of that. When we got down 3-2, everyone picked each other up and we had a few great innings near the end to win the ball game.”
Vance Charter will face the winner of the Northside-Pinetown and Perquimans matchup on Wednesday evening.