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Wayne reloads as others rebuild

Mar. 16, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

When the Wayne Pioneers rallied to win two games on the final day of the West Virginia AA State Tournament, it gave the program its first state title.

With the Pioneers losing only one player to graduation, catcher Taylor Adams, the question becomes what can the team do for an encore?

"Everybody is expecting us to go back-to-back," said coach Tish Smith. "I don't really think they know how hard that is."

Not that Wayne isn't up to the challenge.

"The girls are motivated, determined, they worked hard in the off-season and hopefully we can be there in the end," Smith said.

The Pioneers have a dugout full of girls who know what it takes to win it all, and an embarrassment of riches when it comes to talent.

Wayne has at least two bona fide aces on the mound in perennial all-state selection Jessie Rowe and Emily Thompson, who shut down Keyser in the playoffs to get Wayne into a position to play for the state title.

Hitting? Check. Fielding? Check. Speed? Check.

"Speed is terribly important," Smith said. "You have to be able to push people once you get on base."

Smith said the Pioneers aren't seeking out perfection in the 2013 campaign, but want to mix and match lineups so team chemistry or experience isn't an issue at the end of the season.

"Seven of our girls in the championship last season were playing with some type of injury and we struggled," she said. "We want to have everyone on the same page and girls who can step in and play any position expertly. It's hard to change team chemistry once you get to the post season."

Smith said Wayne will not rest on its success from last year.

"We've kind of put that behind us and we have new goals for a new season," she said. "One of those goals is just to win the Cardinal Conference. We've never done that before. We won the state title last year, but we finished third in our conference."


Huntington St. Joe: There is rebuilding, and then there is what Huntington St. Joe is doing.

The Irish will hit the diamond one decade removed from the school's last state title, and two years removed from the last time it fielded a team.

That's right, St. Joe didn't play at all in 2012, because the school didn't have enough players.

"We are in a building year," said coach Karri Fischer. "We've got 14 kids. I've got a team."

It's going to be a challenge, Fischer said, but it's also going to be exciting laying the foundation for a new program at St. Joe.

The schedule is a little light by design.

"We're starting small," Fischer said. "The idea is to build this year and not get morale down. We're very young, and we just want to build this to a point where we can maintain a program."

One name that will get attention right away is Jennifer Sang, the latest in a long line of strong athletes with that surname to play for the Irish.

Schedule: March 25, Hannan; March 26, at Tolsia; March 30, at Charleston Catholic (doubleheader); April 2, Chesapeake; April 4, Grace Christian; April 5 at Cross Lanes Christian; April 8, Tolsia; April 9, at Ironton St. Joe; April 11, Teays Valley Christian; April 12, Fairland, April 15 at Grace Christian; April 16, Fairland; April 17, Ironton St. Joe; April 18, at Chesapeake; April 19, Cross Lanes Christian (doubleheader); April 22, Ironton St. Joe; April 24, at Hannan; April 27, Teays Valley Christian (doubleheader).

Cabell Midland: It does not get much more competitive in Class AAA softball than Section 2, Region IV. The state champion has emerged from the greater Huntington area multiple times over the past 15 years.

Cabell Midland is looking to restore a program that has five state titles, and three runners-up.

The last championship for the Knights came in 2005.

Midland had a strong season in 2012 but couldn't convert it to post season success.

The Knights lost four players off of last year's roster, including all-state pitcher Kaity Hanna.

But coach Jeanne Lunsford said there are four players vying for that ace spot in the rotation.

The Knights also return Marshall University prospects Morgan Zerkle and Morgan Kelley.

"We're very solid defensively," Lunsford said.

The challenge for the Knights will be generating enough offense to win consistently, Lunsford said.

"We're going to have to find timely hitting and we're going to have to be aggressive on the bases," she said. "That comes with time. We just need some time over the season to gel and hopefully we'll be back in the state tournament again."

Schedule: March 16, at Woodrow Wilson; March 23 at Starmount, N.C.; March 26, at Hurricane; March 27, at South Charleston; March 28, Spring Valley; March 29 at Huntington High; April 2, Capital; April 3, at Lincoln County; April 4, George Washington; April 5, at St. Albans; April 8, at Spring Valley; April 9, at Nitro; April 10, at Capital; April 11, Hurricane; April 12, at Buffalo; April 13, at Buffalo; April 15, at Riverside; April 16, at Parkersburg; April 17, Wayne; April 18, Huntington High; April 19, South Charleston; April 20, at Parkersburg South; April 22, MSAC; April 26, Ripley.

Huntington High: The Highlanders won back-to-back state titles in 2007-08, and have been a perennial playoff presence out of the Mountain State Athletic Conference.

However, the Highlanders have missed out on the post season for the past two years.

Longtime coach Darrell Woody hopes this is the year Huntington High turns the corner.

"The last couple of years we have been rebuilding," he said. "We had 13 players last year, this year we have 15. Those freshmen who only won two games two years ago are juniors now, so what is important is that we have experience. We're seasoned."

Of those 15 players, seven are juniors and three are seniors.

"We have a few seniors, but even more juniors who need to step up and do their thing," Woody said. "We want to be competitive in every game."

The Highlanders are already off to a bit of a rough start, having committed four errors in a 7-4 loss to South Charleston.

"I don't mind losing games, but I don't want to give them away," Woody said of the contest. "We have to concentrate on the little things: flyballs, groundballs, going to the right bag. We have to do the little things right."

Woody is hoping the Highlanders can flourish behind junior pitcher Rachel Bias.

"She's got about four pitches she can use; she's working on a fifth," he said. "She keeps us in ball games, we just need to do a better job behind her. A good pitcher can take you a long way."

Schedule: March 16, Ripley; March 16, Wahama; March 25, Winfield; March 26, Parkersburg; March 27, Fairland; March 28, at Lawrence County (Ky.); March 29, Cabell Midland; March 30, at St. Ablans; April 5, Spring Valley; April 9, at Fairland; April 11, Lawrence County (Ky.); April 12, Capital; April 13, Woodrow Wilson; April 13, Princeton; April 16, at Nitro (doubleheader); April 17, St. Albans; April 18, at Cabell Midland; April 19, Chesapeake; April 20, at South Charleston; April 20, at Hurricane; April 23, At Wahama; April 24, at Spring Valley; April 25, at Winfield; April 26, Hurricane; April 27, at Woodrow Wilson (doubleheader); April 29, at Chesapeake; April 30, South Point.

Spring Valley: The Timberwolves are coming off a disappointing season that didn't see Spring Valley get out of the sectional.

This year, coach Allison Webb's strategy is a relatively simple one.

"I expect us to hit the ball, and really out-hit every team we play," she said. "We've got people playing new positions, and we're not always going to do everything right in the field, but I expect us to hit enough to overcome that."

Webb also expects a "never say die" attitude from her players, which the team has already exhibited, coming from 5-1 down to beat Winfield, 6-5, on Thursday night.

"We are going to fight until the last out," she said.

The Timberwolves are rolling with a mix of youth and experience.

The team anchor is Cassie Adkins, a big bat that also does some pitching here and there.

"She has ridiculous power," Webb said. "She can start at any position I put her in. We've got her and few others who are really coming along."

Schedule: March 16, at Nitro; March 18, George Washington; March 20, at St. Albans; March 21, Capital; March 22, at Lincoln County; March 23, Boyd County; March 25, at Hurricane; March 26, South Charleston; March 27, Riverside; April 28, at Cabell Midland; March 30, at Chesapeake; April 5, at Huntington; April 6, Wayne; April 8, Cabell Midland; April 9, at George Washington; April 10, Lincoln County; April 11, St. Albans; April 13, at Fairland (doubleheader); April 15, at South Charleston; April 17, at Winfield; April 18, at Wayne; April 19, Nitro; April 24, Huntington High; April 25, at Capital; April 26-27, at Boyd County.

Hurricane: The Redskins headed up a successful campaign in 2012, and will look to only be better this season.

Last year, outfielder Addie Fullen, infielder Madi Casto and utility player Courtney Rogers all made second team all-state as freshmen.

Now, they have a year of experience under their belts.

Hurricane claimed the MSAC title last season.

Schedule: March 16, at Parkersburg (doubleheader); March 18, Nitro, March 20, at Woodrow Wilson (doubleheader); March 21, at Winfield; March 22, at South Charleston; March 25, Spring Valley; March 26, Cabell Midland; March 27, George Washington; March 28, at Capital; March 29, at Lincoln County; April 5, at James Monroe; April 6, at Sissonville; April 6, at Herbert Hoover; April 8, at Nitro; April 9, St. Albans, April 10, Winfield; April 11, at Cabell Midland; April 12-13 at Best of Best; April 16, Riverside; April 17, at Ripley; April 18, at St. Albans; April 19, Lincoln County; April 20, South Charleston; April 20, Huntington High; April 22, Poca; April 23, MSAC; April 26, at Huntington High.

Winfield: The Generals have lost centerfielder Faith Farley, who graduated last spring, and will be relying heavily on pitcher Taylor Raines in the upcoming campaign.

Winfield will face a tough stretch in early April when they play nine straight games on the road, including doubleheaders at George Washington and Capital.

Schedule: March 16, at Riverside (doubleheader), March 18, Lincoln County; March 20, Parkersburg; March 21, Hurricane; March 23, at Parkersburg; March 25 at Huntington High; March 26, Nitro; March 27, at Ripley (doubleheader); March 28, Riverside; March 29, Logan; April 1, at St. Albans, April 2 at Point Pleasant; April 3, at George Washington (doubleheader); April 5, at Capital (doubleheader); April 8, at South Charleston; April 10, at Hurricane; April 12 at Nitro, at Point Pleasant (doubleheader); April 15, Point Pleasant; April 16, St. Albans; April 17, Spring Valley; April 19, at Logan; April 22, MSAC; April 24, at Lincoln County; April 25, Huntington High; April 26, at Buffalo.

Nitro: March 16, Spring Valley; March 18, at Hurricane; March 19, Riverside; March 20, South Charleston; March 21, at Parkersburg; March 22, St. Albans; March 26, at Winfield; March 27, Parkersburg; April 8, Hurricane; April 9, Cabell Midland; April 10, at South Charleston; April 11, Capital; April 12, Winfield, Princeton; April 13, at St. Albans; April 15, Herbert Hoover; April 16 Huntington High (doubleheader); April 19, George Washington; April 19, at Spring Valley; April 23, at Riverside; April 26, at Capital; April 27, at Buffalo (doubleheader).

Point Pleasant: March 19, at Parkersburg South; March 22, Poca; April 23, at Chapmanville; March 26, at Wahama; March 38, Sissonville; March 30, at Liberty (doubleheader); April 2, Winfield; April 4, at Ripley; April 5-6, Chapmanville Tournament; April 8, Logan; April 9, Wahama; April 11, Chapmanville; April 13, at Magnolia Tournament; April 15, at Winfield; April 16, Parkersburg South; April 17, at Logan; April 19-20, at Wendy's Spring Classic; April 22, Gallia Academy; April 23, at Poca; April 25, at Sissonville.

Riverside: March 16, Winfield; March 16, Oak Hill; March 18, Parkersburg; March 19, at Nitro; March 20, at Princeton; March 22, Woodrow Wilson; March 23 at Sherman, at Fayetteville; March 25, Capital; March 26, at Charleston Catholic; March 27, at Spring Valley; March 28, at Winfield; April 9, at Woodrow Wilson; April10, at George Washington; April 11, Greenbrier East; April 12, South Charleston; April 15, Cabell Midland; April 16, at Hurricane; April 18, Charleston Catholic; April 22, Princeton; April 23, Nitro; April 25, at St. Albans; April 26, at Nicholas County.

St. Albans: March 16, Capital; March 20, Spring Valley; March 22, at Nitro; March 23, Woodrow Wilson (doubleheader); March 26, at George Washington (doubleheader); March 27, Capital; March 27, Princeton; March 29, at Parkersburg (doubleheader); March 30, Huntington High; April 1, Winfield; April 2, at Clay County; April 4, at Capital; April 5, Cabell Midland; April 6, South Charleston; April 9, at Hurricane; April 11, at Spring Valley; April 12, at Ripley; April 13, Nitro; April 16, at Winfield; April 17, at Huntington High; April 18, Hurricane; April 19, Wheeling Park (doubleheader); April 22, MSAC; April 25, Riverside; April 29, Lawrence County (Ky.).

Tolsia: March 18, Lawrence County (Ky.); March 19, at Mingo Central; March 20, Chapmanville; March 23, at Sissonville (doubleheader); March 25, Wayne; March 26, Huntington St. Joe; March 27, Tug Valley; April 8, at Huntington St. Joe; April 9, at Wayne; April 10, at Tug Valley; April 11, South Point; April 12, at Chesapeake; April 15, at South Point; April 16, Chesapeake; April 17, at Chapmanville; April 19, at Scott; April 20, Poca (doubleheader); April 23, at Mingo Central; April 24, Tug Valley; April 25, at Lawrence County; April 27, at Herbert Hoover (doubleheader).