It’s hard for a player to improve her status after being an All-State selection as a freshman.
For Herbert Hoover junior pitcher Allison Rager, her path to being named the 2014 Kanawha Valley Softball Player of the Year began shortly after being named an All-State pick for a second time in 2013.
“She really ramped up her offseason routine. She started going to a hitting coach as well as a pitching coach and came in a lot stronger,” Herbert Hoover coach Missy Smith said. “It was like she never stopped, like she never hit a wall that players hit in the offseason when they’re not even picking up a ball. You could really tell.”
Rager is 21-5 with an 0.89 earned run average and 146 strikeouts for the Huskies as they enter the state tournament Wednesday with a first-round game against Petersburg at Jackson Park in Vienna. She is the Huskies’ leading hitter, with a .510 batting average, and has 10 home runs and 52 RBI to her credit as well as an area-leading 16 doubles and five stolen bases.
Rager clinched the Player of the Year honor last week with a 1-hit shutout of two-time defending Class AA state champion Wayne to eliminate the Pioneers in the Region 4 championship game, 1-0. She singled in the first inning and scored the game’s only run.
“The Wayne game was probably the best she’s pitched in her career,” Smith said. “That’s another thing that’s kind of changed and it happened in that game: if we give her a lead, she’s lethal to other teams. It really puts her in control of a game.”
Another significant change to Rager’s routine and performance from a year ago was the introduction of a new battery mate. Freshman Madison Bowles took over catching duties this season, and Smith said the duo was proactive in working together before the season began.
“Allison kind of saw that coming and was proactive, and Madison needed to know how Allison likes things,” Smith said. “Pitchers, in general, can be a little princess-y about that, but they work great together.”
Rager was the only All-Kanawha Valley player chosen among three selected as pitchers who does not play for Buffalo. Bison senior Chelsey Parkins (12-4, 1.23 ERA, 113 strikeouts) and junior Ali Burdette (12-3, 0.72, 132) took the other two slots, having combined to throw a total of 19 shutouts among Buffalo’s 26 wins entering Wednesday’s state tournament first-round game against Moorefield in Vienna.
Courtney Rogers had another outstanding year at the plate for Hurricane, hitting .500 with 15 homers and 66 RBI. The 2013 Kanawha Valley and the state’s Player of the Year spent less time in the pitching circle this season, however, and gave way to junior teammate Emily Davis there more frequently than in the Redskins’ state title-winning season of a year ago. Rogers was 12-3 with a 1.67 ERA and 58 strikeouts, and alternated with Davis at third base when she was not pitching.
Rager is the fourth Hoover player to be honored as softball Player of the Year by the Daily Mail, and the first to win the honor since Kanawha and Putnam counties were combined to create an All-Kanawha Valley team. Jessica Jarrett was the last Hoover player to be named Kanawha County Player of the Year in 1999. Amy Fleshman and Kerri (Robertson) Blackwell — now the acting head softball coach at West Virginia State — were Kanawha County players of the year in 1997 and ‘98, respectively.
Jarrett is still with the Hoover program, serving as an assistant coach.
“Jessica’s my assistant and calls our pitches,” Smith said. “That’s a prety cool tie-in right there.”
There are no four-time honorees on the 2014 All-KV team, though there are six players listed for the third time in their careers.
Rager, Parkins and Rogers are among the three-time picks, and are joined by Hurricane senior outfielder Addie Fullen, St. Albans senior utility player Madi Marshall and Hurricane junior infielder Madison Casto in that select group.
Fullen hit .482 with seven homers, nine doubles and 38 RBI for the Redskins as the team’s lone senior starter after moving from left field to center for her final prep season. She is joined in the outfield by two-time selection and senior Mikayla Craze of Herbert Hoover (.333, 2 HR, 20 RBI, 11 2B) and junior Kenna Markham of Winfield (.408, 9 HR, 7 2B). Markham was a second-tem pick in 2013.
Marshall, who was a starter at four different positions in her four-year career at St. Albans (second base, third base, shortstop and pitcher) hit .493 in 2014 with 21 RBI. She compiled an 11-15 record with a 2.67 ERA and 93 strikeouts in being named to a utility position.
Casto, another three-year starter for Hurricane with another year of high school ahead of her, hit .522 with two triples and 19 stolen bases as a junior. A Campbell University recruit, Casto’s work in the field at second base remains among the state’s best among infielders. She is joined on the All-KV team by Riverside senior Felicia Burton (.606, 24 RBI, 5 3B), Hoover senior McKenzie Edmonds (.384, 2 HR, 31 RBI, 10 2B) and Sissonville sophomore and Pitt recruit Alexee Haynes (.521, 4 HR, 50 RBI, 12 2B).
Sissonville junior Katelyn Linville was selected as the catcher for the All-Kanawha Valley team after hitting .420 with eight doubles and four triples while she exceled in the defensive elements of her position.
Haynes was the Kanawha Valley Rookie of the Year in 2013, an honor bestowed upon Riverside freshman second baseman Kendall Marshall this season.
The Riverside freshman hit .485 with nine doubles, four triples and 17 RBI for the Warriors.
Buffalo coach Darrell Moore was selected as the Kanawha Valley Coach of the Year. The Bison enter the state tournament in pursuit of their fourth consecutive state championship, and signficantly improved the difficulty of their early season schedule in preparation for their latest title defense. The team opened the year with a 1-5 mark but has won 25 of its last 27 games, with its only losses coming against Class AAA Lincoln County — the Region 4 champion — and Class AAA-equivalent Ashland Paul Blazer, Ky.
Buffalo has a record of 10-2 during its current run against Class AA and Class AAA opponents.
The Daily Mail All-Kanawha Valley softball team, selected from players at schools in Kanawha and Putnam counties:
Player of the Year: Allison Rager, Herbert Hoover
Freshman of the Year: Kendall Marshall, Riverside
Coach of the Year: Darrell Moore, Buffalo
Pos. Player School Yr. Stats
INF Felicia Burton Riverside Sr. .606 ba, 24 rbi, 5 3b
INF Madison Casto Hurricane Jr. .522 ba, 2 3b, 19 sb
INF McKenzie Edmonds Herbert Hoover Sr. .384 ba, 2 hr, 31 rbi
INF Alexee Haynes Sissonville So. .521 ba, 4 hr, 50 rbi
OF Addie Fullen Hurricane Sr. .482 ba, 7 hr, 38 rbi
OF Kenna Markham Winfield Jr. .408 ba, 9 hr, 7 2b
OF Mikayla Craze Herbert Hoover Sr. .333 ba, 20 rbi, 11 2b
C Katelyn Linville Sissonville Jr. .420ba, 8 2b, 4 3b
P Ali Burdette Buffalo Jr. 12-3, 132 k, 0.72 era
P Chelsey Parkins Buffalo Sr. 12-4, 113 k, 1.23 era
P Allison Rager Herbert Hoover Jr. 21-5, 146 k, 0.89 era
UTIL Madi Marshall St. Albans Sr. .493 ba, 21 rbi, 5 sb
UTIL Courtney Rogers Hurricane Jr. .500 ba, 15 hr, 66 rbi
INF Maddie Hebb Hurricane So. .407 ba, 2 hr, 7 2b
INF Olivia Orcutt-Lazo South Charleston So. .443, 3 hr, 9 2b, 3 3b
INF Haili McCown St. Albans Sr. .285 ba, 2 hr, 24 rbi
INF Brianna Ross Charleston Catholic Sr. .667 ba, 11 hr, 53 rbi
OF Katie Higginbotham Buffalo Sr. .386 ba, 6 2b, 17 sb
OF Kelsey Naylor Herbert Hoover Fr. .312 ba, 22 rbi, 9 2b
OF Amber Null Hurricane So. .420 ba, 2 hr, 20 rbi
C Casey Skeens Poca Fr. .533 ba, 2 3b, 44 sb
P Emily Davis Hurricane Jr. 11-2, 1.36 era, 55 k
P Amanda McDonald South Charleston So. 13-14, 1.87 era 184 k
P Tori Ward Poca So. 7-7, 2.16 era, 75 k
UTIL Katie Adams Hurricane Fr. .342 ba, 21 rbi, 6 2b
UTIL Ally Funk Winfield Sr. .360 ba, 2 hr, 6 2b
P Cartney Schoolcraft Winfield Fr.
INF Kendall Marshall Riverside Fr.
INF Jasmine Luikart Poca Fr.
INF Brooke Young Sissonville Fr.
OF Kelsey Naylor Herbert Hoover Fr.
OF Olivia Cochran George Washington Fr.
OF Summer Randolph Poca Fr.
UTIL Katie Adams Hurricane Fr.