Gallery by Heather Belcher
South Charleston – Herbert Hoover has won its last two state championships the hard way, dropping the first two games of each tournament before eventually battling out of the loser’s bracket.
The five-time defending state champs are already off to a better start.
The Huskies collected 11 hits against Independence all-stater Delaney Buckland, avoiding danger in the later innings to preserve a 4-2 win Wednesday afternoon in the Class AA softball state tournament at Little Creek Park in South Charleston.
With the win Hoover advances to play Winfield Wednesday evening with a spot in the Thursday’s Class AA title game on the line. Independence will play Oak Glen in an elimination game at 4:30 Wednesday.
It didn’t take long for the Huskies to announce their presence.
After a leadoff single from Josi Fix set the table, No. 4 hitter Sydney Bright sent a fan home with a souvenir when she lined a two-run home run over the fence in center field.
From then on the Patriots chased.
“Whenever we’re the visiting team we always want to score first and set the tone for winning the inning,” Hoover head coach Missy Smith said. “Sydney was fortunate enough to get on a pitch, get ahold of one and get it started for us early.”
Indy struck back nearly as quickly when given second life.
Following a one-out single from Alli Hypes, Emma Lilly hit a liner to right and appeared to fly into a double play with Hypes tagged out at first but after the players exited the field is was ruled that Hoover hurler Laila Varney threw an illegal pitch.
The Patriots took advantage after Lilly struck out but Kendall Martin followed with a double to the base of the right field fence, plating Hypes.
“Her plant foot was forward off the pitching mound when she released the ball,” Smith explained. “It just has to stay in contact with it. We had been watching her, not necessarily on the mound but in the dirt and when she’s warming up on the turf there’s nothing to push off of so I had mentioned that to her. She knew that’s what it was and it was pretty much and easy fix.”
After getting on the board, the Indy bats went cold with just two Patriots reaching bases from the second inning to the fifth.
Meanwhile Hoover tacked on runs in the top of the fourth and sixth innings with Brooklyn Huffman providing both RBIs that scored Sydney Shamblin and Josi Fix.
Trailing 4-1, Indy found life in the bottom of the sixth when Delaney Buckland drew a leadoff walk and Hypes followed with single. Varney was lifted in favor of Hannah Shamblin who recorded a pair of outs before yielding an RBI-single up the middle to Kassidy Bradbury, allowing Buckland’s courtesy runner to score.
Hypes, hoping to make it two, was caught between third and home on the hit for the final out of the inning, suffocating’s Indy’s last shot at scoring.
“That’s a good team and we thought that (pitching) switch would be to our advantage,” Indy head coach Ken Adkins said. “When you bring somebody in that throws a little slower it gets you kind of out of your rhythm. I thought we were really unlucky with Emma Lilly just hitting some smashes … Listen, they put a lot of balls in play. We probably played as well defensively – that could’ve been an 8-2 or 9-2 ball game if our defense didn’t play well. That’s traditionally how our games have gone with them. They’ve been close games. (Smith) isn’t going to run herself out of games or do anything crazy or anything like that. They had some clutch hits. A couple of those runs were with two outs. We’ll regroup and get Oak Glen this evening.”
Indy last played Oak Glen in the 2021 state tournament, falling 5-0. Though there is question as to whether or not Bears ace Lizzie Kell will be available after taking a line drive to the face and exiting their earlier loss to Winfield.
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