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PREP SOFTBALL: Lincoln County gets boost from big cheering section

VIENNA, W.Va. — While many counties in the state have concluded their school years for 2013-14, Lincoln County remains in session for another week.

It didn’t stop Lincoln County High School from having the most populous student cheering section at this week’s state tournament at Jackson Park. The Panthers were well supported in their run to their second Class AAA state championship, wrapped up when they topped Musselman 2-0 on Thursday.

“We’re still in session, but the school gave the kids an excused absence to come up here,” Panthers coach Rod Hoover said. “It’s good to have such a strong backing. It makes the girls more comfortable.”

Lincoln County (31-8) used mostly the pitching prowess of senior Brooke West and junior Faith Huffman to breeze through the tournament. The Panthers pounded Musselman in its opener on Wednesday 9-1, then sent Wheeling Park to the loser’s bracket with a 2-0 win Thursday morning.

West completed her quest to bookend her career with state championships. She helped lead the school to its first state title in any sport when the Panthers won the 2011 Class AAA title.

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REGION 4 take a bow. In nine games within the three competitive classes at the 2014 state tournament, Lincoln County, Class AA Herbert Hoover and Class A Buffalo were 9-0 and combined to outscore their opponents 68-13.

The sweep of three state championships was the second consecutive year the feat was accomplished by teams in the Southwest quarter of the state, and the 17th time in the last 21 years that at least two teams that are currently in Region 4 won state titles.

In fact, the last time Region 4 failed to win at least two of the three state championships came in 2003, when East Fairmont (AAA), Shady Spring (AA) and St. Joseph (A) claimed titles.

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WHEREAS PITCHING is commonly the predominant trait of state tournaments, this year saw comparatively few shutouts. In fact, there were six among the 18 games played: two by Lincoln County, two by Buffalo, one — a combined no-hitter from Kenna DeLancy and Moie Ray — by Ritchie County and one by Moorefield.

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HERBERT HOOVER coach Missy Smith has sang the praises of her team’s ability to get production from every spot in the batting order numerous times during the postseason. At no time was that more evident than when every Huskies player but one — Caroline Thornburg, who sacrificed — scored in an eight-run sixth inning in the Class AA championship game.

Senior third baseman McKenzie Edmonds was one of four All-Tournament players from the Hoover roster. She joined senior center fielder Mikayla Craze, junior pitcher Allison Rager and junior right fielder Kati Angle on the team, and said that when the time came to make a run at Ritchie County’s 5-4 lead in the fateful sixth, every player decided it was their turn.

“We went insane. Every single one of us knew that someone was going to get on and someone was going to hit us around,” Edmonds said. “We went to the dugout and we turned our visors around and said ‘We’re rallying. Right now. We’re going to win this game and we’re not going to win by a couple of runs. We’re going to kill them.’”

Edmonds was 5 for 11 with a double and four RBI in the tournament and played error-free at third base.

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BUFFALO’S RUN to its fourth consecutive Class A state title ended an astonishing run of success for Bison seniors Chelsey Parkins, Katie Higginbotham, Katie Allen, Paige Roush, Noell Dingess and Kayla Reynolds.

The team’s 8-0 win over Moorefield — its third-straight title game victory over the Yellow Jackets — improved those seniors’ career record to 130-27, a winning percentage of .828.

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

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