The contributions of senior Lauren Rakes to the East Wilkes Cardinals’ 10-0 victory over Cornerstone Charter Academy Thursday evening started about an hour before first pitch.
According to Head Coach Derrick Hill, Rakes took her team to the outfield in Ronda just as the visitors arrived for the contest in the second round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 1A playoffs for an impromptu team meeting.
“It’s what leaders do,” smiled Hill, whose team improved to 17-7.
But Rakes did much more than call her teammates together to refocus for the postseason. Both in the circle and at the plate, Rakes led by example as the eighth-seeded Cardinals made short work of the visitors from Greensboro.
Rakes stacked up 13 strikeouts, facing just one batter over the minimum in five complete innings for the no-hit win.
And she ended the game early in the bottom of the fifth, invoking the state’s 10-run mercy rule with a towering home run over the fence in right field. That no-doubt shot drove in Krysta Prevette — who reached with one away on a walk — and sent the Cards to a round three game against North Stokes tonight at 6 p.m. in Danbury.
“No disrespect to Cornerstone,” said Hill. “But I sort of figured they hadn’t seen a pitcher like Lauren so far this season. When Lauren is pitching the way she is capable of, and we can score a couple of runs, we’re generally in good shape.”
While Rakes cruised her counterpart, Cornerstone’s Sidney Clark, struggled. Clark pitched 2 ²⁄³ innings, allowing four earned runs on three hits.
But she was undone partially by errors. Cornerstone committed four miscues in the first two frames and allowed the home team to plate four unearned runs to pad its lead in that span.
Rakes and Prevette led the way all game long. Prevette, a junior hitting in the nine-spot, reached all three times she came to the plate and Rakes reached safely four straight times in lead-off.
“We had the conversation at the start of the season with Krysta about our expectations in the nine-hole,” said Hill. “I told her from day one that we didn’t really care about her batting average. We just wanted her to get on base. And you saw tonight how important on-base percentage is in that spot, and how important her ability to turn the line-up over is.”
Prevette made first base on two walks and was hit by a pitch in the third. All three times she came home, driven in by an error and on RBIs by Alexis Lester and Rakes.
Hill also praised the work of all five of his seniors Thursday, including Rakes.
“All five contributed,” said Hill. “Jenna (Bullard) was great behind the plate, Lyric (Ryan) drove in our first run with a hit in the first, Samantha (Carter) had a big sacrifice for us in the second, and Lexi had a couple of RBIs.
“And of course Lauren was Lauren. We’re going to miss all five of them next season.”
Rakes ended the night with a team-high three runs batted in (she brought in Macie Bell with a walk in the third). Rakes and Prevette also had three runs apiece.
Cornerstone, seeded 24th in the playoffs, ended its season at 12-10, though the future looks bright for the visiting Cardinals. Clark is a freshman and reliever Morgan Kinney, who gave up Rakes’s home run but otherwise was solid in 1 ¹⁄³ innings of work, is also back.
North Stokes will provide a bigger challenge for East Wilkes in round three in Danbury. The Vikings are a perfect 24-0 after beating East Surry 12-7 in round two.
North Stokes recorded 13 shutouts this season, one season after losing to South Stanly 3-2 in the fourth round of the playoffs last spring.