The Wilkes County 12-and-under softball all-stars made quite a splash last summer in its first year as members of Tar Heel League when it won the North Carolina THL championship.
Wilkes County had aspirations of a repeat performance this summer but Shelby had other plans, defeating them 8-4 in the championship game last Sunday at Currituck Community Park.
Despite coming up short of repeating, Wilkes County Head Coach Jamey Bare was pleased with how the team performed throughout the tournament. But the biggest thing he took away was everything from the near six-hour trip, to sustaining no injuries on or off the field.
“I want to thank God for giving us safe travels and keeping us safe on and off the field while we were at the state tournament,” said Bare. “I also want to thank the Wilkes community that made donations to help the girls with travel and lodging during our trip.”
Wilkes County couldn’t have asked for a better start through the first two days of the tournament as it defeated District 7 representative Cashie 8-1 in the opener on Thursday. On Friday, Wilkes advanced to the winner’s bracket finals with a 17-4 win over fellow District 2 representative Ashe County.
But Wilkes suffered its first defeat as a member of the Tar Heel League (district or state tournament) in a 2-1 loss to Shelby on Saturday morning — a team it defeated twice during last year’s state tournament.
Wilkes County rebounded Saturday afternoon with an 8-2 win over Johnston County East to advance to the championship game.
Sunday’s game was also a rematch of last year’s state championship final (which Wilkes won 8-1), but this time, Shelby came out on top.
Wilkes County finished the tournament 3-2 but that didn’t take away from how proud Bare was of their effort.
“I am extremely proud of every girl on our team as all 10 girls (Ralee Bare, Mikalynn Kinder, Deandra Walker, Rylee Howell, Savannah Johnson, Lexi Bray, Shalyn Bare, Allie Farrington, Layla Winters and Amaya Lugo) played their hearts out every game. Not one time did they quit or give up and each of them contributed to every game in some way,” said Jamey Bare. “Hats off to Shelby, they had a great team. During both games against Shelby, we had opportunities to win but we came up short.”
In addition to all the players on the team, Bare was also thankful for all of the contributions from the players’ parents and his assistant coaches, Jason Farrington and Randy Kinder.
“I want to thank all the parents for bringing these girls to practice and enduring the heat as we truly worked hard and prepared a ton leading up to the state tournament,” said Jamey Bare. “I want to thank all of the coaches for their time, hard work and efforts that each of them put into helping these girls grow in their skills and knowledge of the game.
“In closing, I am extremely honored and proud to have had the opportunity to work with each of these girls,” added Bare. “At the end of the day, if they remember the most important thing in life (being saved) that we always talked about in our huddles, then we can consider our season a huge success.”
Notes: As a member of either Tar Heel or Little League, Wilkes County’s 12-and-under teams have reached the finals of the state tournament every year since 2015. Since 2008, they’ve reached the state finals 10 times (winning five of them).