When it comes to picking the players who make up the Wilkes Journal-Patriot’s all-county softball team, it is usually fairly easy in most years.
This year, it was not. In fact, much analysis and breaking down of statistics was required, more so than in previous years.
All 20 of the players, who were nominated by their respective coaches, were very talented and boasted some very impressive stats — needless to say, picking the county’s top-14 performers proved to be a daunting task.
Of the first-team players selected by the Wilkes Journal-Patriot’s staff, 10 of them had a batting average of more than .400 and all but one player batted .365 or higher.
Players of the Year
Picking the county’s top players might have been the easiest part of the whole all-county process.
East Wilkes’ Lauren Rakes and West Wilkes’ Lauren Anderson did so many things that contributed to their respective teams runs to the third round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association state playoffs.
Both players put up such solid stats that either one could’ve been named the county’s top hitter or top pitcher. As a result, both players were named Wilkes Journal-Patriot’s co-players of the year for the 2019 season.
Rakes swept the Mountain Valley Athletic Conference Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year honors this past spring. She led the Cardinals in nearly every offensive category; Rakes batted .534 with nine home runs and 29 runs batted in — all team highs — as she was also named to the North Carolina Softball Coaches Association all-state and all-district teams for the fourth time in her high school career.
Of her 31 hits, which tied for the team lead, 20 of them went for extra bases, including 10 doubles. She had 58 official at-bats in the season and drew 37 walks — many of which were intentional free passes. She also had a team-high 15 stolen bases.
Inside the pitching circle, Rakes was 15-7 with a 0.84 earned run average in 24 appearances. She struck out 228 batters and allowed just 18 earned runs in 150 1/3 innings pitched this spring.
“She’s a legitimate five-tool player,” said East Wilkes Head Coach Derrick Hill. “You just don’t see that type of player come along every day. She’ll be phenomenal at Lenoir-Rhyne.
“This season, if you made a mistake against her at the plate she’d send the ball to the parking lot,” added Hill. “And if you walked her, she’d steal second and get herself home anytime we put the bat on the ball.”
Like Rakes, Anderson will also be playing softball at the next level as she’ll suit up for Pfeiffer University.
Anderson, who was an all-MVAC performer, had county highs in both batting average (.543) and RBIs (39) and also added six home runs (to go along with 18 walks). Of her 38 hits, 17 of them went for extra bases.
Splitting time between center field and pitcher, Anderson went 11-1 in the circle and had 91 strikeouts. She also converted a pair of saves.
“Lauren was an awesome leader this year who stepped up and took the ball on the mound — she pitched amazing for us,” said West Wilkes Head Coach Michael Woodruff. “Lauren also had an amazing year at the plate and led us in just about every category.”
The 2019 All-County team
Counting the Players of the Year, West Wilkes led the county with seven selections while East Wilkes and Wilkes Central had three selections each. North Wilkes had one honoree.
East Wilkes (17-8, 11-3 MVAC)
In addition to Rakes, both Lyric Ryan and Alexa Carter were NCSCA all-district 1A selections.
Ryan, who will play for Piedmont International University, tied Rakes for team-high in hits (31) and was second behind her in RBIs with 16. She also batted .388 and defensively, sported a .966 fielding percentage.
Carter, a sophomore, drove in 15 runs with 20 hits. Defensively, she had a .931 fielding percentage while playing third base.
North Wilkes (2-20, 2-12 MVAC)
The Vikings really hit their stride as the regular season came to a close when they won their only wins of the spring, which included a 2-1 win over a 15-win Starmount squad.
Belmont-Abbey College-signee Lanie Miles was a key contributor for a fairly young North Wilkes squad as she was an All-MVAC selection.
Miles, who North Wilkes Head Coach Noah Johnson said, “was a great ball player in our league,” batted .415.
West Wilkes (21-5, 12-2 MVAC)
In addition to Anderson, five other Blackhawks batted higher than .400 this spring.
Sophie Nichols made the most of her opportunities at the plate from West’s leadoff spot to finish second behind Anderson in batting average at .455. The sophomore had a team-best 40 hits, including 10 doubles, and she scored 30 runs while driving in 13.
“Sophie was as solid as I’ve ever coached at second base (she had a .986 fielding percentage with just one error). She had a great offensive year and would do whatever was needed at the plate to produce runs,” said Woodruff.
Carly Parsons and Jamilyn Wilcox served as the Blackhawks’ second pitcher and catcher, respectively. Parsons, who went 7-3 inside the circle with a 2.64 ERA, batted .432 with 26 RBIs.
Of her 35 hits, more than half of them went for extra bases including 15 doubles and four triples. Parsons also played in the outfield.
Wilcox also drove in 26 runs while batting .417 with 35 hits.
“Carly is an amazing athlete who gives you all she’s got all the time and is a fierce competitor,” said Woodruff. “Jamilyn was a big asset for us this year and had a great year behind the plate and on the offensive side. She was extremely dangerous when she got on the bases (stealing a team-high 13 bases).”
Senior Tory Parsons and junior Brianna Lewis turned in All-MVAC performances for West Wilkes and were valuable pieces at first base and shortstop, respectively, and both finished with 26 hits apiece.
Parsons batted .406 with 26 RBIs, eight doubles and three home runs while Lewis batted .366 with seven doubles, two triples and 25 RBIs.
Defensively, neither player committed an error in the field.
“Tory was a great leader and was very solid at first base for us this year. She also had a solid offensive season and is going to be greatly missed next year,” said Woodruff. “ Brianna played huge up the middle this year and was solid on the offensive side as well.”
Kendall Stanley made an impact at third base during her freshman campaign as she hit .413 with 25 RBIs and 27 runs.
Of her 21 hits, she had 10 doubles and three triples.
“Kendall was rock solid for us this year at the corner and swung a huge bat for us,” said Woodruff. “She is a fierce competitor who loves to win and is a joy to coach.”
Wilkes Central (8-10, 7-7)
Despite a slow start to the season, the Eagles won seven of their eight games once conference play began.
A pair of juniors and a sophomore played a big part in helping Wilkes Central accomplish its goals this spring.
Morgan Johnson, who Wilkes Central Assistant Coach Kevin Anderson called, “a great all-around player with a strong arm,” paced the Eagles at the plate with a .413 batting average.
Johnson, who also had a .429 on-base percentage and a .500 slugging percentage, improved her batting average from last season by more than 100 points.
Christa Walsh followed up a solid freshman year with an equally successful sophomore season where she batted .382 with a home run and a team-high eight doubles.
Walsh, who was also named to the All-MVAC team, went 5-3 inside the pitching circle in 14 appearances, which included 10 starts.
While Johnson and Walsh had the pop at the plate, Madison German supplied the power with a team-best three home runs.
German, who Anderson called, “very aggressive offensively and defensively,” had a team-high .702 slugging percentage and also sported a .585 on-base percentage. She was only behind Johnson in batting average at .405.