East Wake’s near-miss Warriors have dropped just one softball game by more than four runs this season, but the Warriors still find themselves in need of a strong finish to possibly earn a wild-card position for the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A state playoffs.
East Wake enhanced its chances with a sweep over backyard rival Knightdale, finishing the double dip Wednesday with an 11-0 decision at Jackie Ammons Field. The contest was stopped after the top of the fifth by the mandatory 10-run rule.
Thanks to the successful week, the Warriors improved to 9-9 overall to go with a 5-6 mark in the Greater Neuse River Conference. Even if it produces three victories to close out the regular season, East Wake cannot vault into the top-3 spots in the league, which would guarantee a playoff spot. Coach Melissa Bell and company will now pin their hopes on picking up a wild-card spot, which is determined solely by overall record.
“We just pretty much need to win out and see how it goes,” Bell said. “Our girls know that, so it’s my hope they will rise to the occasion. We definitely have the potential.”
That fact has been evident the entire spring as East Wake has been competitive with all of its opponents, with a combined total of five setbacks by two runs or less – including close calls against GNRC powers Garner and West Johnston.
“It’s been a tough season,” said East Wake pitcher/third baseman Annabeth Watkins. “I don’t like losing. And when you lose 1-0 when the other team scores late, it’s not a fun time.”
The Warriors will finish off their schedule with a series against defending league title holder Harnett Central (Tuesday at home and Thursday on the road). East Wake also hosts Southeast Raleigh on Monday.
Knightdale, which is working under first-year coach Misty Bingham, dropped to 8-10 and 3-9.
With East Wake already ahead 2-0 going into the bottom of the third, Breanna Boggs led off with a bunt single for the Warriors. Haley Glover followed with an infield single before Watkins deposited a three-run homer over the portable fence in right-center field to help her club take charge for good. The Warriors tacked on six more runs in the fourth to set up the 10-run rule.
Three to Know
Madison Swiger, East Wake: Swiger, who has shared mound duties with Watkins this spring, offered a complete-game shutout. Swiger scattered seven hits and struck out four, but her highlight came when she worked out of a bases-loaded, nobody-out jam in the fourth. At the plate, Swiger was 2-for-3 with a double and two RBI.
Annabeth Watkins, East Wake: The Warriors’ talented senior took the day off on the hill, but starred at third base while going 2-for-2 with a longball and five RBI.
“Annabeth brings a complete player to our team – from head to toe,” Bell said. “She brings consistency, athleticism and enthusiasm to our team. She has a passion for pitching and playing third base, and she has a passion for hitting. And she is academically one of the top students in the senior class.”
Cassie Tyson, Knightdale: A key part of the Knights’ rebuilding process, Tyson, a junior, collected two hits Wednesday from her leadoff position.
“Cassie had been very good for us this year,” Bingham said. “We’ve had her at left field, pitcher, catcher and now second base this season. She has done well everywhere.”
By the Numbers
2: The Knights have only a pair of upperclassmen on their roster under Bingham. Knightdale’s entire top of the lineup (Tyson, Quin George and Jena Massing) are all slated to return.
3: Knightdale has already accumulated three more victories this season as opposed to the 2015 campaign – and eight total.
4: East Wake has four seniors on its roster, and all of them have signed to continue their fast-pitch careers in college: Glover (Appalachian State), Watkins (Belmont Abbey), Sam Albino (Barton) and Marcele Abate (Wake Tech).
4: That has been a lucky number this spring for Watkins, who has a quartet of home runs and is among the league leaders in the GNRC. Watkins also has five mound victories while serving as the Warriors’ ace.
They Said It
“We have a very young team,” said Bingham, a former collegiate player at Lenoir-Rhyne. “We haven’t had the best year at the plate. We are still working on being able to score runs and get stronger on defense. Offensively, we are still playing catch-up to the rest of the conference.”