INWOOD, W.Va. — As regional softball play is scheduled for Thursday around the state, Musselman out of Class AAA continues its quest to capture its first softball state championship.
The Lady Applemen came up just short of that title a season ago, finishing as the runners-up to champion Lincoln County.
“We got really close last season – going through the nerves and that atmosphere really showed us what it would take to go to the next level,” said coach Shannon DeMasi. “Last year showed them that they could do it, but it just wasn’t quite to that next level.
“The environment (at the state tournament) is totally different,” she continued. “All of those other schools seem to be close and busload in groups of people. Here we are, five hours away, and we have 20 people. We have that great atmosphere at home, but they don’t get to travel as much.”
Looking to make that five hour trip across the state again this year, Musselman heads into regional play with a 30-1 overall record — that lone loss came to Woodgrove High School out of Virginia 4-2.
For the third year in a row, the Lady Applemen have set a school record for most wins in a season.
“We lost our entire outfield from last year,” DeMasi said. “We knew that we were going to have to put some of our true infielders out there and transition to the outfield. They’ve done a great job out there. This year, we have a confidence about us. It’s not arrogant, but we have are eye on the prize.”
Included among those 30 wins are victories over state tournament contenders Hurricane (8-7 and 3-0), South Charleston (2-0 and 9-0), Wheeling Park (7-0 and 5-1) and four-time Class A defending champion Buffalo (10-6).
Musselman has outscored its opponents 227-31, including 18 shutouts on the year behind junior standout pitchers Sabrina Shroades and Taylor Stocks.
Shroades, a Winthrop commitment, is 13-1 with an ERA of 0.39 and 204 strikeouts. Stocks (a Jacksonville commitment) is 13-0 with a 1.35 ERA and 139 strikeouts.
“They are phenomenal athletes,” DeMasi said. “Taylor (Stocks) has also been leading us with her bat, hitting around .525 on the year. Those two lead by example and have been doing great.”
The two standouts have developed a nice chemistry behind the plate as well with senior catcher Brittney DeMarco. Junior Kelcie Jenkins brings some power to the plate offensively, leading the Lady Applemen in RBIs.
Musselman’s road back to the state tournament continues Thursday with a regional semifinal contest against Spring Mills. The Lady Applemen have two wins already over Spring Mills this season 9-0 and 4-0. The winner of that game will move on to the regional final against either Elkins or Buckhannon-Upshur.
“It would mean a lot (to win a state championship),” DeMasi said. “1972 was the first year they had softball at Musselaman and we’ve never won a title. Last year was school history becoming the state runner-up. To win it all would be unbelievable – we’ve all put so much work into it, but you have to show up when it counts the most.