Weaverville – North Buncombe featuring Tennessee Vols-bound flame-throwing pitcher Karlyn Pickens and a strong supporting cast is playing as a legitimate state title contender.
The Lady Hawks opened their conference schedule by thumping usual contenders A.C. Reynolds and T.C. Roberson.
Senior Cheyanne Cable echoed her teammates’ goal, when asked if they talked about how far these Weaverville Wonders can go in playoffs. “We’re going to ‘state’ (finals)!”
The Lady Hawks (5-1; 2-0 MAC) beat TCR (0-4) by 10-0 at home Friday, in a game that ended after four and a half innings due to the ten-run slaughter rule. NBHS batted around to score five runs in the bottom of the first inning.
Leadoff batter Pickens had three hits including a homer and hustling infield hit. She scored three runs. She is batting .647.
Two hits each were by catcher Julianna Mendoza who bats .550 and is a vocal leader, sophomore third baseman Shayna Higgins, and freshman Molly Clark who played second base. Clark snatched a hard liner to preserve Pickens’ second no hitter in five tries. Shortstop Cable scored three runs and knocked in four — three on a fourth-inning home run to attain the magical ten-run lead. TCR had one last gasp but could not score, so the game ended early.
“This was a real team effort,” Pickens said. “We feed off of each other’s energy.” Cable said “we work so good together.” NBHS head coach Tiffany Ferguson praised various Hawk contributions.
North Buncombe is into a magnificent four-season run in softball, as three-time reigning Mountain Athletic Conference champion. The Lady Hawks in 2018 were 20-3 and won the MAC with a perfect 16-0 mark. They won two playoff games. They were 20-5 in 2019 and 15-1 in winning the MAC. In the abbreviated 2021 season, they went 15-1 including 12-0 in the league. They won three playoff contests in both of those seasons. The 2020 season was cancelled early on, as the pandemic struck.
Cable’s three-run blast was to deep left field, in the fourth frame. It might still be orbiting earth. Cable said she hit two homers even further in summer travel ball.
Pickens smashed a home run to center field in the second inning. It cleared the small stands behind the fence, to reach the huge tree there.
Pickens fanned 13 Lady Rams in five innings, hitting two batters.
Roberson three-sport star Tymber Thompson managed a ground out in the second inning. She hit a few foul balls in her final at bat before fanning on a ferocious swing and miss.
‘Slim Pickings’ vs. Pickens
Pickens (5-1) hurled a no hitter against Watauga in a 4-0 triumph on March 11. She fanned 19 batters. She struck out 18 A.C. Reynolds hitters and homered in a 6-1 MAC-opening victory March 15. Pickens mowed down 12 to beat Watauga again two days later, by 11-0 in Boone. In the season opener, she fanned 11 in a 10-0 slaughter-shortened win over local rival Madison. Next she struck out 13 in the sole Hawk loss thus far — 3-0 to 4A top-ranked Alexander Central Cougars. The Cougars eliminated the Hawks by 3-0 in 2021 playoffs.
Pickens is touted as the nation’s premier high school softball pitcher. She had an amazing earned run average of 0.41 a season ago — allowing less than a half-run earned per contest. She was 12-1, and shut out foes in half of her victories. Pickens struck out 207 batters in 85 innings to average 2.43 per inning. She walked merely 21 batters. She struck out 86 batters in the first six games of this season, averaging 13 and 2.5 per inning. She batted .419 in ‘21, hit five home runs, and stole 22 bases. She hit two homers so far in ‘22, and is six for six in steals.
Kiersten Gosnell has a homer this year. She and Peyton Whitson as freshmen each smacked three homers and had seven steals in ‘21, while Mendoza hit two out.
Coach Ferguson can tell how Pickens is stronger in this her final Hawk season, after working more with weights. Pickens said she feels stronger and has more endurance.
Cable, Pickens, Kenzie Jones and Addison Norton are the team’s four seniors.
The Lady Hawks played at McDowell (5-2) Tuesday, host Smoky Mountain today (Thursday, March 24) and Enka (1-1; 1-0 MAC) next Tuesday. NBHS is home again versus Asheville (0-5) April 1. AHS hosts TCR on Friday, March 25 — also at 6 p.m. Roberson’s next home game is Tuesday, April 29 at 5 p.m.
Enka was 11-5, and tied with West Henderson for second in the league at 10-4 in 2021. The Sugar Jets are at McDowell on Friday, March 25 at 6 p.m. ACR (2-3) hosts Erwin (1-6) at 5 p.m.
In baseball, most MAC teams are off to superb starts. Reigning MAC champ T.C. Roberson is the sole team unbeaten in conference play at 2-0, to go with a 4-2 overall record. A.C. Reynolds (6-1; 1-1 MAC) beat Enka (4-2; 1-1) Saturday.
Asheville (5-1; 0-0), the league runner-up last season, hosts North Buncombe (1-6; 0-2) this Friday at 4:30. Erwin (5-1; 1-1) welcomes ACR and TCR hosts Enka — both Friday at 6:30 p.m. McDowell (4-2; 1-1) is also impressive.