VIENNA, W.Va. — A near-decade absence from the softball state tournament caused a few nerves for Class AA Herbert Hooover, but once the Huskies found their feet Wednesday it was business as usual.
Senior center fielder Mikayla Craze had a bases-loaded triple in the fourth inning as Hoover batted around, and Kanawha Valley Player of the Year Allison Rager struck out 11 in six innings as the Huskies beat Petersburg 8-2 at Jackson Park.
The win put Hoover into the winner’s bracket, where the Huskies quickly took a 2-0 lead over Ritchie County before lightning delayed the game for 30 minutes. An eventual downpour forced the postponement of Wednesday night’s action until 9 a.m. Thursday.
At that point, Rager will return to the plate with a 3-2 count with two outs in the top of the second. Zoey Carte led off the inning by being hit by a pitch.
Caroline Thornburg had an RBI single to score Carte, and later scored on a wild pitch by Ritchie sophomore pitcher Kenna DeLancy.
In the opener, Craze said she took her opportunity when it appeared.
“I saw the same thing I saw in the Sissonville game. I had two strikes and the bases were loaded, and it was ‘Just come out and hit it,’ so I did,” Craze said.
The Vikings (23-6) led 1-0 entering the fourth inning, having taken the lead in the bottom of the first on an unearned run. All-State Petersburg first baseman Brittani Bible brought home shortstop Cassidy Hedrick and Hedrick singled and advanced to second on an error by Hoover (30-6) right fielder Kati Angle.
Hoover coach Missy Smith attributed her team’s early fielding woes — the Huskies committed another error in the third — to their need to get settled on the state tournament stage. With rains forecast for the afternoon, Smith said she was happy to get the first game under Hoover’s belt.
“Luckily the field crew here does a great job and the weather held out so we got the first one in,” Smith said. “Hopefully we’ll show up from first pitch against Ritchie this afternoon.”
Angle started the fourth-inning rally with a single, which was followed by a McKenzie Edmonds base hit with one out. After Petersburg pitcher struck out Madison Bowles for the inning’s second out, she walked Zoey Carte and Kelsey Naylor in succession, giving Hoover its first run.
Craze followed, ripping a 1-2 pitch into the left-field corner, putting Hoover ahead for good.
“She came through again,” Smith said of Craze, who provided the Huskies’ big hit in their Region 4 semifinal win over Sissonville on May 15.
“That No. 8 spot’s been good to her,” Smith said. “That’s why we put her down there, so when she comes up in that spot she can do that.”
Angle was 3 for 4 with a double and an RBI while Edmonds went 2 for 4 with a double and drove in a run. Carte also drove in a run, and finished 2 for 4 with a pair of singles.
Bible was 2 for 3, and Thompson had a seventh inning double against Hoover freshman reliever Dellani Fix that scored Brooke Hott for Petersburg’s second run.
The Hoover-Ritchie County loser will face Petersburg 30 minutes after the conclusion of the Class AA’s first game Thursday. The championship game is scheduled for 2:15 p.m.