VIENNA, W.Va. —With all the tears streaming from Allison Rager, it was hard to tell whether the Herbert Hoover softball team had won its first state title or come up short again.
Turns out these were happy tears from happy Huskies, who finally took home the Class AA trophy. They capped it with an eight-run sixth-inning outburst to rally past Ritchie County 12-6.
“It’s just overwhelming,” said Rager, choking up repeatedly as her teammates posed nearby with award plaques. “Over the years it has been really hard to lose out early (in the playoffs). But we knew we had the talent and we worked so hard to get to this point.
“Winning this year was for all the teams in the past.”
Along with compiling a 3-0 pitching mark at the state tournament, Rager provided a pivotal—and bizarre—hit during the big sixth after Hoover drew even at 5-all.
The Huskies (32-6) had had two runners in scoring position when Ritchie County sought to intentionally walk Rager. But Moie Ray’s 2-0 pitch floated over the plate, and Rager swatted it to the fence in left-center for the go-ahead double.
“I was up on the plate and I was going to try to reach anything I could,” the junior said. “Then she threw something right down the middle.”
That deflated Ritchie County (27-7), which committed four errors and a wild pitch in the inning.
The Rebels, playing their third game of the day and trying to force a fourth, seemed to be in good shape after taking a 5-3 lead on Kenna DeLancey’s two-run homer in the fifth.
But Hoover got one run back in the bottom half fifth before sending 12 batters to the plate in the sixth inning that Ritchie County coach Dave Mossor described with a single word: “Bang!”
Even Hoover coach Missy Smith admitted she couldn’t foresee such an offensive explosion, even though her squad had score double-digit runs 15 times this season (including 27 in one blowout).
When it was finished, Smith hugged parents on the infield and reflected with tears of her own about what the title means to the school.
“It really belongs to everybody,” Smith said. “It’s not just our state championship, it’s for everybody who’s ever been here.”