VIENNA, W.Va. - When you win back-to-back Class AA state softball titles, there is little doubt that your coaching staff has developed a solid plan on how to be successful.
Case in point: coach Tish Smith's Wayne Pioneers.
Making the trek back to the Rosemar Softball Complex in Vienna in search of a second straight championship, Smith realized that a lot of her team's hopes rested on the arm of junior hurler Jessie Rowe.
A two-time first-team all-state performer, Rowe took to the pitching rubber in the Pioneers' opening contest against last year's state runner-up Ritchie County and hurled a four-hitter to lead Wayne to a 4-1 victory. She followed that performance with a six-hitter in a 14-1 victory over James Monroe in the semifinals of the winners bracket.
Rowe then dominated in the title round, pitching a two-hitter as the Pioneers repeated with a 5-1 win over James Monroe.
"Jessie is just a phenomenal little player," Smith said. "She has an extraordinary ability to place the ball with four of her pitches. She never gets rattled. The more pressure, the better she performs."
Rowe pitched all 18 innings for the Pioneers during the two-day event, allowing 12 hits, three runs (only two earned) and walking three batters while striking out 19.
That's part of the reason why Rowe is one of 18 girls selected to the Class AA softball all-state first team selected by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association.
Rowe, teammate Jessica Watts, Herbert Hoover's Allison Rager and Braxton County's Charity Ramsey are all repeat selections, while Robert C. Byrd's Mecca Henderson went from being a Class AAA first-team choice last year to this year's AA squad.
Joining Rowe on the team's five-girl pitching staff are Rager, Henderson, Petersburg's Marley Thompson and Ritchie County's Moie Ray. Henderson closed out her time at RCB by striking out 198 batters in 173 innings while Thompson brought the Vikings back to Vienna as the junior posted an 11-3 mark with 74 strikeouts and a 1.14 ERA. Ray, a sophomore, finished with a 13-2 mark and 73 strikeouts.
Manning the infield are Watts, a .328 hitter, Sissonville's Alexee Haynes, Scott's Allyson Johnson, Laine Shifflett from James Monroe and Brittany Bible from Petersburg.