RONDA — There was never any question as to who the most intense player on the East Wilkes softball team was last year. Now, that player has graduated and moved on to bigger and better things, as she’s ready to hit the mound another time.
East Wilkes graduate and softball player Brandi Parks, class of 2015, just finished her first semester of college at Lenoir-Rhyne, and she’s anxious to get her first season under her belt. Don’t let her youth fool you; she’ll be out on the field looking to prove herself every time she takes the mound.
“I want to hold up my reputation that I already have,” Parks said. “I want to prove that I can actually do this.”
“Brandi started her high school career as a good pitcher and ended it as one of the best pitchers in the state,” Head Coach Bradley Hayes said. “It wasn’t a surprise to me or anyone close to her because of how hard she worked at it.”
Through years of hard work, Parks established herself as a leader by example on the mound. Parks’ pitching stats were phenomenal last year with a 0.730 ERA over 178 innings pitched. Her strikeout total was lethal as well, finishing with 337.
“Brandi’s always put God first and people second, and pleased everyone around her. Don’t get me wrong, she’s a fireball,” Randall Parks, Brandi’s father, said. “When she steps in the circle, things change. That’s kind of her home away from home. That eight-foot circle.”
Hayes recalled the first time he ever saw Parks pitch, and liked what he saw.
“She was probably in the fourth or fifth grade. I remember asking some people ‘Who’s that girl over there pitching,’” Hayes said. “Everybody said, ‘Oh, that’s Brandi. She pitches out here every day and then runs laps around the field.’ That was my first impression of Brandi Parks. I knew she was a hard worker and wanted to be good at her craft.”
So far, Parks has enjoyed her time at Lenoir-Rhyne, noting similarities to East Wilkes, and said she’s excited for training to get into full swing by the new year.
“It’s a small community but a really big family. All of the athletes come together. It’s a lot like my team at East Wilkes,” Parks said. “I know when I come home [to East Wilkes], they’re really happy for me. I might not get to see all the girls a lot but when I do see them they’re excited. I’m doing what I love.”
Family is a big theme for the Parks, and one of the tougher moments Parks had to endure was losing her aunt to cancer last year. In response to this, Parks decided for her senior project, she’d run a cancer awareness softball tournament. Through that, Parks said it helped her see that in the future, she wants to coach. Through it all, it’s been a learning experience that she won’t soon forget.
“I’ve learned that you need to practice every single day. Work as hard as you can every day. Work your hardest and push yourself to be what you want to be. Keep pushing for your dreams because they can come true.”
Brandi is the daughter of Randall and Ginger Parks, and her brother Dakota, is a sophomore on the wrestling team.
Ryan DeCosta can be reached at 336-258-4052 or via Twitter @rsdecosta.