The bar has always been set high at Jack Yates High School.
Since its doors opened in 1926, the school is noted for producing leaders in fields ranging from academia to politics, oil and gas, the legal system, entertainment, medicine and athletics.
So sixth-year head girls’ softball coach William Butler saw no reason to deviate from a proven track record for success.
Despite the fact that nine of his 14 players were inexperienced in organized softball coming into the 2017 season, Butler’s goals for his team included not only being competitive but also qualifying for the postseason.
Following a 20-17 victory over Kashmere at the Barnett Sports Complex, Yates improved to 4-2 in District 24-4A and squarely in the playoff chase.
The win was good enough for sole possession of second-place, one-half game ahead of Wheatley and trailing only front-running Scarborough (5-0).
“This was a good win for us and we’re showing signs of coming together,” Butler said. “Week-by-week we’ve gotten better and now we’re in second place with our eyes on first place and possibly winning district.”
Yates jumped in front with a seven-run first inning and never trailed against Kashmere, although the Lady Rams made things interesting by coming within three runs in the final inning.
The winning Yates battery (pitcher/catcher combination) consisted of senior right-hander Kenyell Banks and senior backstop Dejanae Lockett.
“Kenyell is the valedictorian of her class, captain of the Lionettes and the leader of our team,” Butler said. “She got hurt last year so this is really her first year of playing full-time.
“Dejanae is the stabilizing force on our team,” Butler said. “She’s the best hitter that we have and she’s also a team leader. Those two are going to lead us into the playoffs.”
Banks pitched a complete game for the win while Lockett added a base hit and scored three times.
With the second half of district play underway, Yates will close out the regular season against North Forest, Scarborough, Booker T. Washington and Wheatley.
The top four schools in league play will advance into the playoffs beginning April 29.
“In the first game I ever pitched for Yates High School, we came back and won following a losing streak,” Banks said. “So this year I wanted to pick back up where I left off.
“After the injury I came into this season thinking I needed to pitch and make sure we get into the playoffs,” Banks said. “Right now, we are working very hard as a team.
Banks has seen her team undergo a metamorphosis from the season’s early stages.
“At the beginning of the season we were a group of separate individuals,” she said. “We didn’t know a lot about each other or about the game itself.
“As we continued to practice more and more we started to jell together like a true team,” Banks said. “I feel all of the players’ hard work has been phenomenal. It’s a satisfying feeling and we believe we’re only going to get better.”