Area Softball Player of the Year: Camden's Hailey Bunting lifts Lady Bruins to regional championship
By Malcolm Shields
Sunday, June 23, 2019
CAMDEN — It was a standout season for the Camden County High School softball team and Hailey Bunting.
Bunting, a junior right-hand pitcher, was one of the key players for the Lady Bruins that saw the program advance to the North Carolina High School Athletic Association Class 1A state championship series this spring.
Bunting’s all-around production made her the selection as The Daily Advance’s Area Player of the Year.
Bunting helped the Bruins win the first Albemarle Easter Softball tournament, the Albemarle Athletic Conference regular season and tournament championships, earn the No. 1 seed in the East Region for the NCHSAA Class 1A state playoffs and was in the circle to help the Bruins clinch the NCHSAA 1A East Regional championship series on May 23 in Princeton.
Individually, Bunting was named the Albemarle Athletic Conference Player of the Year, earned all-conference status and was selected to pitch in the North Carolina State Games high school softball tournament for Region 1.
She helped Region 1 to a second consecutive gold medal at the North Carolina State Games high school softball tournament Wednesday.
During the spring, Bunting posted an 18-2 overall record with an earned run average (ERA) of 1.28.
Bunting finished the 2019 season with 161 strikeouts to just 21 walks.
At the plate, Bunting posted a .383 batting average with seven home runs and 30 RBI.
To Bunting, earning the Area Player of the Year ties in to her season of accomplishments.
“It makes me feel like I have accomplished a lot this year,” she told The Daily Advance on May 29.
Even though Bunting has achieved many individual accolades during her prep career, entering the season, she wanted to lead the Bruins back the regional final series.
During the 2018 season, Camden faced Louisburg in the best-of-three series, but lost the series two games to zero.
Bunting acknowledged that the way last season ended was motivation for her this season.
Duplicating and surpassing last season’s success was the goal.
“That was our main goal, was to go further and push as far as we could, get back to regionals and get a shot at states,” Bunting said.
And they did.
In Game 1 of this season’s Class 1A Regional final best-of-three series against Princeton, Bunting gave up only one hit and registered seven strikeouts in a 1-0 win at Camden.
In Game 2 of the regional final, Bunting pitched a complete game and battled in the circle.
She was able to force the final out of the series on a pop out to shortstop to secure a come-from-behind 6-5 win to win the regional championship series in two games.
For Camden coach Charles Nash he has stressed to Bunting to push herself to get better and not settle for what she has accomplished.
He acknowledged that it was key for Bunting to stay sharp while pitching.
Along with her ability to pitch, Nash acknowledged that Bunting improved as a hitter this season.
“She started off kind of slow then she has a spurt where the ball looked like beach ball to her,” Nash said May 29. “She was hitting everything.”
The coach added that overall she has become a better hitter because Bunting realized that opposing pitchers are pitching her different because they know she can hit.
Although Camden lost in the state championship series to North Stokes two games to zero June 1, Bunting battled in the circle in both games.
Camden finished the 2019 season with a 26-3 record.
She will be part of a team next season that should return the majority of its core players that will try to return to the state championship series.