BOONE — Whether it has been in Little League or Tar Heel League, the Wilkes County 12-and-under softball teams haven’t had many close calls in district tournament action over the last decade.
On Tuesday night, Wilkes County had a battle on its hands against a Hickory squad which had played earlier in the evening.
But Wilkes County took care of business and secured its spot in Thursday’s District 2 tournament championship game with a 4-0 win over Hickory at Sywassink/Lloyd Family Stadium on the campus of Appalachian State University.
Wilkes (2-0) struck first in the top of the first after Ralee Bare (double) and Mikalynn Kinder (walk) each reached base.
Deandra Walker lined out to Hickory third baseman Mya Parson, who threw over to first base to double off Kinder.
But in the process, Bare scored for the early 1-0 advantage.
Walker, who earned the win after allowing just one hit (a single to Anicka McFarland in the second), pitched well but ran into a couple of jams.
After McFarland’s single to lead off the second, Parson grounded back to Walker for the first out but at the same time, McFarland advanced to third.
During Autumn Brown’s at-bat, McFarland attempted to score after a wild pitch from Walker.
But catcher Rylee Howell quickly retrieved the ball from the deep backstop and threw to Walker, who tagged out McFarland. Walker, who had to work around five walks, settled down and struck out Brown — one of her six strikeouts in the ball game.
Hickory (1-1) threatened again in the third with a pair of one-out walks to Kiley Whitfield and Raegan Carter.
But Walker and Wilkes County buckled down and induced a double play from Aaliyah O to end the inning.
Shalyn Bare started off the fourth with a single to left, stole second and took third on a passed ball. Allie Farrington drove her in with a sacrifice fly to right field.
Later in the inning, Wilkes County traded outs for runs after Katie Owens singled and stole second. Owens took third after Amaya Lugo reached on an error and scored to make it 3-0 on an RBI groundout from Ralee Bare.
Both Shalyn Bare and Ralee Bare, along with Howell, finished with two hits apiece. Shalyn Bare also tacked on an insurance run in the top of the sixth with an inside-the-park home run.
Before Bare’s long ball, Hickory attempted to end the shutout in the bottom of the fifth after Alyssa Clontz and McFarland drew walks with nobody out in the inning.
But Wilkes County responded with a pair of big defensive plays. First, Howell caught Parson’s popup in foul territory for the inning’s first out. After Brown grounded out to Shalyn Bare at first base, Kinder made a nice play on a ball at shortstop to retire Euince Benitez and end the inning.
Wilkes County began its run in the District 2 tournament for 12-and-under softball with a 12-0 win over Watauga at Industrial Field in Boone.
The game ended after three innings due to Tar Heel League’s 12-run mercy rule.
Wilkes used a six-run first inning, led off by a Ralee Bare double and an RBI groundout by Kinder, to jump start its offense. They also added three runs in the second and three more in the third. All 10 Wilkes batters scored at least once in the win.
The first-inning runs proved to be more than enough for Walker, who didn’t allow a hit and struck out five. She pitched to one batter over the minimum. Watauga’s Kaitlyn Hardin drew a walk off Walker in the second. Walker also highlighted the third inning with a two-run single.
Watauga’s district tournament run ended on Tuesday night following a 12-0 loss to Ashe County. Ashe followed up that win with a 13-10 victory over Hickory on Wednesday night at Watauga High School to advance.