Prep softball: Sissonville’s Casto thriving in new environment

With its glistening academic record, it is a rare occurrence when a student-athlete transfers away from George Washington High School to excel on the playing field for another school.

Sissonville sophomore outfielder/pitcher Taylor Casto, on the other hand, might be the exception that proves the rule. Casto, a member of the 2013 Kanawha Valley All-Rookie team as a GW freshman, has a 5-3 record with a 2.16 earned run average as the Indians’ No. 2 pitcher behind fellow 10th-grader Alexee Haynes. A lefty, Casto also provided what proved to be the game-winning RBI by hitting a third-inning double last week in a 3-2 win over two-time defending Class AA state champion Wayne.

Sissonville (15-6) moved into the No. 1 spot in this week’s Daily Mail Class AA Softball Poll, leapfrogging No. 3 Herbert Hoover to jump in the process.

The Indians followed their win over the Pioneers last week with a 13-4 thumping of the Huskies on April 17, then reached the Class AA/A finals of the Best of the Best Tournament before falling to host Buffalo in the title game Saturday.

Casto said the move from South Hills to Sissonville has been seamless.

“I have loved Sissonville. It’s been the best decision to transfer out here,” Casto said. “I would not change it for anything.

“I love the girls, I love the coaches, and the school itself is amazing,” Casto said.

Casto moved into a program steeped in tradition at Sissonville. The Indians have six state championships to their credit, although the most recent title came in 2002 under former coach Annette Olenchick, who now serves as the coach at South Charleston.

By moving into a lineup already filled with young talent guided by Sissonville coach Niki Gross, Casto said she feels right at home.

Casto was one of four sophomores in the Indians’ starting lineup, which typically also features sophomore shortstop Karli Pinkerton.

Pinkerton is two weeks away from having a cast removed that was placed on her right leg to repair an ankle sprain suffered earlier in the season. Freshman Brooke Young has taken over at short in Pinkerton’s absence.

As a freshman, Casto hit .375 for the Patriots in a season that saw GW finish 8-18.

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THE BEST of the Best Tournament proved to be one of the best in recent memory, from Buffalo coach Darrell Moore’s perspective.

“We’ve had great weather for one thing,” Moore said last week.

“That’s more than we could say the last couple of years. It’s gone really well, and a lot of people have come out and it’s good for the community.”

Rain soaked most of the tournament last year, and in 2012, the showcase coincided with a cold snap that had most players bundled up and most fans sitting at home instead of at Buffalo’s four-field softball complex located on the banks of the Kanawha River.

Hurricane won the Class AAA tournament Saturday, while Buffalo took the title in the Class AA/A field.

“Softball’s a huge deal in this community. It’s a tradition that we’ve built. Well, Darrell built it,” junior pitcher Ali Burdette said after throwing a 13-strikeout no-hitter against Class AA Nicholas County on April 17.

“The community comes together for softball,” Burdette said.

“We have all kinds of clinics just to get the kids out, so everybody gets involved and at Best of the Best you can see it. It’s great.”

After a 1-5 start, Buffalo has reeled off eight consecutive victories and is 9-5. The Bison are ranked second in this week’s Class A Poll.

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IT MIGHT be too late for St. Albans (10-12) to make a run into the Mountain State Athletic Conference playoffs, but with sectional tournament play set to start May 5, the Red Dragons’ win over top-ranked Hurricane on April 16 added a much-needed level of self-confidence in the team, two of its players said.

“I’ve been making a couple errors here and there at shortstop, but my teammates have been picking me up a lot,” sophomore Madi Chandler said after the win, in which she had six assists in five innings.

Chandler, a Kanawha Valley All-Rookie pick last year as SA’s second baseman, moved to short this year with senior Madi Marshall’s move to pitcher.

“They tell me it’s fine, and to just keep doing better,” Chandler said.

“It’s just a matter of getting more confidence, I think. We have all the talent in the world. I don’t think anybody should be able to beat us.”

Marshall, true to her even-keeled form, was optimistic but realistic regarding the win and its meaning.

“It’s definitely a positive turnaround because, obviously, we haven’t been doing so hot,” Marshall said.

“We’ve been getting mercy-ruled and we just thought, ‘You know, it’s about time we bring our ‘A’ game.’”

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AS FOR Hurricane, the state champs bounced back well from their first loss since last season’s sectional series against Lincoln County with a string of wins at Best of the Best. The Redskins (17-1) topped Lincoln County — a team they play host to at 5:30 p.m. today in Hurricane — to win the crown after they picked up wins against Parkersburg South, Ripley, Shady Spring and Cabell Midland. None of the first three teams Hurricane faced at Best of the Best scored a run against the team.

Contact Preps Editor Derek Taylor at or 304-348-5170. Follow him on Twitter @ItsreallyDT.

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