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This time it counts as Hoover, Sissonville meet again in softball regional

By Tommy Atkinson, Staff writer

The two regular-season matchups between Herbert Hoover and Sissonville won’t be remembered.

The only one that counts is when top-ranked Herbert Hoover visits No. 4 Sissonville (21-9) at 6 p.m. today in the Class AA Region 4 semifinals. The winner advances to next week’s regional finals with a trip to the state tournament on the line. (See Page 2B for regional pairings and schedule.)

The two Cardinal Conference rivals split during the season, with Hoover taking the first one 6-0 then Sissonville in a walk-over 13-4 victory.

“We’ve talked to these girls about being mentally prepared and focused,’’ said Sissonville coach Niki Gross. “We hope that shows up. Whichever team hiccups first the other team is going to take over after that.’’

“Our region is tough,’’ added Hoover coach Missy Smith, whose team has fallen the past two years in regionals. “No matter who we play now you better show up to play every day or you’re going to get sent home. They’re playing well and we’re playing well so hopefully it’s a good ballgame.’’

Aside from the finality, this time will be different since neither team’s No. 1 ace faced the other. Hoover junior pitcher Allison Rager, a Morehead State recruit, fired a four-hit shutout with six strikeouts and a triple away from the cycle in the 6-0 win.

Rager was suspended in the second meeting for a violation of team rules, but the Indians plated six runs twice behind Taylor Legg’s 3-for-6 performance with a three-run home run and three RBIs.

Sophomore pitcher Alexee Haynes, who has verbally committed to Pittsburgh, powers Sissonville, hitting .595 with four home runs, 12 doubles and 48 RBIs along with a 12-4 record a 2.43 ERA and 86 strikeouts.

“I think this is going to be a close game,’’ Gross said. “It’s good for us being the home team and have the last at-bat to close it out. I’m hoping we can jump on them early and keep that drive throughout the game and don’t give up. It seems like when we’re home we play a lot better. We’re eager to get in there and jump on the team first.’’

“It guess it’s a little drama,’’ said Smith of the pitching matchup, “but for us it’s another game with Allison on the mound and we have to play well and win. I have a lot of faith in [our players]. They can play well. We have to show up. Walking on the field isn’t good enough. If we play well and hit the ball I like our chances.’’

Rager has been one of the best players in the Kanawha Valley if not the state this season, batting .553 with 10 home runs, 51 RBIs and 46 runs scored while carrying a 15-4 pitching record with a 0.92 earned run average and 132 strikeouts in 114 2/3 innings.

The rest of the Huskies’ lineup has been pretty good, too. Freshman Kelsey Naylor carried a .370 batting average with 16 RBIs during the regular season while junior Zoey Carte (.351), senior Ashleigh Tignor (five home runs, 21 RBIs), senior McKenzie Edmonds (19 RBIs) and freshman Madison Bowles (18 RBIs) are offensive threats, too.

Sissonville also has capable hitters in junior Katelyn Linville (.425, eight doubles), junior Legg (two HRs, six doubules, four triples, 25 RBIs) and sophomore Taylor Casto (18 RBIs).

“It’s all or nothing,’’ said Gross. “It’s just going to be whoever comes out hungry enough.’’

No. 2 Wayne, the two-time defending state champion in AA, hosts Scott in the other half of Region 4. The Pioneers have swept the regular-season series with the Skyhawks. Hurricane, the Class AAA defending state champion, was eliminated in last week’s sectional tournament.

Here’s a quick glance at today’s other regional semifinals involving Kanwaha Valley teams:

South Charleston at Ripley (AAA Region 3): The Black Eagles have relied on the arm of freshman pitcher Amanda McDonald and the wisdom of first-year coach Annette Olenchick, who guided Sissonville to six Class AA state titles.

SC fell 7-3 at Ripley in mid-April, but the Black Eagles have won eight of 10 since then, including six in a row heading into today. SC navigated its sectional without much resistance, combining for 17 runs in sweeping to the title over George Washington.

The Vikings earned the fourth seed in the Mountain State Athletic Conference and, after losing in the semifinals, upset No. 1 Hurricane in 10 innings in the consolation game. SC’s McDonald possesses a 12-12 record during the regular season but had a 1.87 ERA with a Kanawha Valley-leading 184 strikeouts.

Wahama at Buffalo (Class A Region 4): The Bison seem to be hitting their championship stride after a rocky start to the season in seeking a fourth straight title.

Buffalo cruised in its sectional without allowing a run to state-ranked Charleston Catholic in a two-game sweep. The Bison disposed of the White Falcons twice during the regular season by 10-0 and 9-0 scores.

The Bison’s 1-2 pitching punch of Chelsey Parkins (8-3, 68 strikeouts) and Ali Burdette (9-2, 92 strikeouts) is tough to beat and the duo can also hit. Burdette’s the team’s top hitter (.582) while Parkins (.462, three HRs) is no slouch.

Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at tatkinson@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4811.


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