As the three-time defending Class AA state champion, not counting last year’s COVID-19 scratched season, winning a softball sectional championship is nothing new to Herbert Hoover.
But to this group of Huskies, it mostly is.
So, there was more to smile about Saturday arguably than in seasons past as host Hoover used clean defense and a balanced hitting attack to earn a Class AA Region 2 Section 2 crown with an 8-0 win over Lewis County in six innings. Region 2 Section 1 will continue play early next week as Hoover awaits its opponent in a best two-of-three regional series scheduled for the week of June 14-19.
Saturday’s victory completed the Huskies’ romp through the section in which they won three games by a combined score of 41-0.
Those are the kinds of ridiculous numbers that have surrounded the program for four years now, but this roster is much different. Just three starters on Saturday — senior center fielder Cortney Fizer, junior pitcher Grayson Buckner and junior third baseman Caroline Woody — played any kind of significant role in the team’s last state title in 2019.
While growing pains have been felt at times this season, that youth made Saturday’s latest plaque a little more meaningful for the Huskies.
“Everything we do with this team we’re doing for the first time again,” Hoover coach Missy Smith said. “We start six sophomores — seven contribute — and one senior and two juniors. Everybody lost a year last year, so everything we’re doing right now we’re doing for the first time. The sectional means more because most of this team doesn’t have a sectional plaque.”
“We might have to work a little harder than we’ve had to in the past since I’ve been here,” Fizer added. “But I believe in them as much as I’ve believed the last couple of years and I think we can do it again.”
The Huskies (21-3) have developed the look of a state title contender, particularly of late as they picked up their seventh straight win and got hitting and errorless defense up and down the lineup. Fizer was 3 for 3 with a run while sophomore Josi Fix also went 3 for 3 and added a pair of runs and a two-run single in the third inning. Sophomore shortstop Brooklyn Huffman registered a two-out, two-run triple in the second inning, and Woody finished with a pair of hits.
All of that was plenty for Buckner, who yielded just a pair of hits and a walk. She struck out just four, instead relying on a defense that has developed as much as the team’s offense has in recent weeks. Smith said that means just as much if not more as the team prepares to advance to the regional round.
“We’ve struggled with that a few times this year in tight ballgames,” Smith said. “When we let a runner on, they don’t necessarily score but it allows the lineup to turn back over again and the more times a lineup sees your pitcher the harder it is to pitch around. For us to be playing good defense is the big piece we have to put in place.”
With strong Class AA teams to be found statewide — including Independence, Oak Glen, Weir, Lincoln and Philip Barbour, just to name a few — and several of them Cardinal Conference foes battling it out in Region 4 Section 1, Hoover has possibly slipped under the radar a bit this year. But even with the new faces, the team isn’t lacking confidence. The more performances like Saturday’s that Hoover delivers, the more its players believe they can keep the title streak going in Falling Rock.
“I think we’re on the right track,” Fizer said. “We still have some work to do but if we keep going like we are I think we have a pretty good chance.”
Lewis County defeated Roane County 16-4 earlier on Saturday to advance to the championship game in the afternoon.