By DEREK TAYLOR
DAILY MAIL PREPS EDITOR
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The revolving door into the lobby of the softball state tournament will send yet another different representative of Class AAA’s Region 4 to Vienna this season.
With last week’s elimination of defending state champion Hurricane (23-5) by Region 4, Section 4 rival Lincoln County (22-8), a new regional champion will be crowned for the seventh consecutive season next week. The last time a team from Region 4 repeated as regional champ was in 2008, when Huntington High School won for the second straight time en route to a second-straight state title.
“It’s always a battle. It’s always who lands a punch or gets the break, it’s right there,” Lincoln County coach Rod Hoover said of his team’s rivalry with the Redskins, but at the same time his assessment could be applied to a broader scope of the region in its entirety.
Lincoln County eliminated the defending state champions by sweeping the teams’ best-of-three sectional series. The Panthers beat Hurricane 1-0 on May 7 in Hamlin to finish off the sectional title.
“To me, this shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody,” Hoover said. “It’s always been that close, it’s just about execution. We executed when we needed to right there. When we’ve got “32” (senior pitcher Brooke West) in the circle, we’re always confident we’re going to win. We executed, and we’re proud of them.”
In the final Daily Mail softball poll of the season, released May 5, six of the top 10 teams in the state resided within Region 4: No. 2 Hurricane, No. 3 Cabell Midland, No. 4 Logan, No. 6 Lincoln County, No. 7 Spring Valley and No. 10 Point Pleasant. Lincoln County will visit Cabell Midland (21-7) in one regional semifinal Thursday, with Point Pleasant (23-7) traveling to Logan (25-4) for the other the same day.
All regional semifinals are scheduled for Thursday. Regional championship games will be played May 22.
Since Huntington’s back-to-back run as state champion in 2007-08, the state championship has been claimed by Ripley (2009), St Albans (2010), Lincoln County (2011), John Marshall (2012) and Hurricane (2013). John Marshall is the only team from outside Region 4 to claim the title, doing so in a year in which Parkersburg South won the Region 4 crown.
In fact, the Monarchs’ state title in 2012 is the only Class AAA state championship won in the sport by a team not from Region 4 since East Fairmont’s title-winning season of 2004. Cabell Midland (2005) and Spring Valley (2006) each won titles prior to Huntington’s repeat.
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HERBERT HOOVER junior Allison Rager might just be making a bid for state player of the year honors, after all.
While Hurricane junior and 2013 Player of the Year Courtney Rogers improved her hitting statistics in the year since winning the award as a sophomore, Rogers has no opportunity to build upon those numbers with her team eliminated from postseason play.
Enter Rager, whose numbers are reminiscent of Rogers’ from a year ago, with at least one more tournament game and any fill-in games this week yet to be played. Hoover visits Sissonville in a Class AA Region 4 semifinal Thursday, with Scott playing at two-time defending state champion Wayne in the other Region 4 semi the same day.
Teams still alive in postseason play are allowed to play against each other on days not set aside by the Secondary School Activities Commission for regionals. The games and any statistics that result from them are official.
Rager is hitting .533 with 10 home runs, 51 RBI and 46 runs scored for the top-ranked Huskies (26-5). She has a 15-4 pitching record with a 0.92 ERA and 132 strikeouts in 114 2/3 innings.
In Hurricane’s 39-game season a year ago, Rogers hit .492 with 11 homers and 60 RBI. She was 21-3 as a pitcher, with a 2.32 ERA and 100 strikeouts.
Rogers wrapped up her junior year hitting .494 with 15 homers and 66 RBI. She was 12-3 as a pitcher with 59 strikeouts.
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BUFFALO’S CLASS A Region 4 semifinal against Wahama will be the last scheduled home date for a group of Bison seniors seeking their fourth consecutive state title. Should second-ranked Buffalo (23-7) beat the White Falcons, it will play at either No. 5 Williamstown (18-6) or No. 9 Wirt County (20-8) in the Region 4 championship next week.
Other regional semifinals Thursday include South Charleston at Ripley in a Class AAA Region 3 game and Class A No. 4 Sherman playing host to Tug Valley in Region 3.
Contact Preps Editor Derek Taylor at email@example.com or 304-348-5170. Follow him on Twitter @ItsreallyDT.