By GREG TALKINGTON
The Exponent Telegram
CLARKSBURG - It's doubtful anyone in state softball circles would compare Herbert Hoover coach Missy Smith to Cher, but for her and her Huskies, the beat indeed goes on.
Herbert Hoover just claimed its third-straight Class AA softball crown and there's a big reason for it - talent.
That showed up significantly on the West Virginia Sports Writers Association's Class AA All-State team, as the Huskies put three girls on the first team and another on the second unit.
Pitching ace Delani Buckner leads the all-state contingent as the team's captain. She threw six perfect games and five additional no-hitters in going 20-1 with a miniscule 0.33 ERA. She struck out 273 hitters and walked just 18 in 127 innings. In addition, Buckner hit .495 with nine doubles, two home runs and 33 RBIs as the team's cleanup hitter.
"Delani has four pitches she can use and they are all effective," said Smith, whose team concluded the season with a 35-1 record. "But more than that, it's her poise and calmness out on the mound that makes such a difference. She never panics out there and that rubs off on everyone else.
"And her improvement at the plate was a big deal for us. We lost some power hitters from the year before and even though she didn't hit a lot of home runs, she drove in runs and came up with several big hits for us."
Joining Buckner on the first team are teammates Presley McGee and Cortney Fizer.
McGee made the unit as a utility player, as she was the Huskies' shortstop and No. 2 pitcher. She was nearly as effective in the circle as Buckner, as she went 15-0 with a 0.72 ERA and 136 strikeouts in 68 innings. She hit .376 with 12 doubles and 37 RBIs. Fizer, a sophomore first baseman hit .429 with nine doubles, five homers and 38 RBIs.
"Having Presley to go with Delani makes such a difference," Smith said. "You know you don't have to pitch the one and maybe wear them out or get them dinged up by the end of the season.
"And Cortney was our most cerebral hitter. Sometimes she almost overthought and over-analyzed at-bats, but from her freshman to her sophomore year, she matured a lot as a hitter and was one of our top RBI producers."
Independence, Bridgeport and Nitro all placed two girls on the first team.
Independence has two infielders selected to the team in senior shortstop Nicole Kester and sophomore second baseman Kaylen Parks. Kester hit .509 with four homers, eight triples, 25 RBIs and 28 steals. Parks hit .467 with eight homers and 48 RBIs.
Bridgeport, the Region II bridesmais to Hoover, lands senior shortstop Emily Riggs and sophomore centerfielder Paige Humble on the team. Riggs, who gave up a softball scholarship to Pitt to play basketball at Fairmont State, hit .500 for the Indians with seven homers and 33 RBIs. She was walked an astounding 34 times. Humble, a fleet-footed, strong-armed outfielder, hit .520 with 14 doubles, three triples and four home runs as the Tribe's leadoff hitter.
Nitro placed sophomore pitcher Bella Savilla on the team along with utility player Lena Elkins.
Savilla compiled a 16-3 record on the mount with a stellar 1.26 ERA. She had 152 strikeouts in 128 innings in the circle and hit .358 with 12 home runs and 49 RBIs. Elkins, a freshman, played first base when Savilla was on the mound and hit .442 with 12 homers and 45 RBIs. In the circle, she went 11-5 with a 2.39 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 82 innings.
Joining Savilla and Buckner as first-team pitchers are Wyoming East's Holly Brehm and Petersburg's Carly Cooper. Cooper, a junior who led the Vikings to the state title game against Hoover, went 17-0 through regional play with a 0.61 ERA and 176 strikeouts in 81 innings. Brehm struck out a staggering 353 batters in 161 2/3 innings in going 21-5 with nine no-hitters and a 0.61 ERA.
The catchers come from the north-central area of the state as Lewis County senior Bella Posey and Liberty-Harrison freshman Emma Kyle earned first-team status. Posey, who has made either first or second team all-state all four years of her high school career, batted .500 with eight doubles, two homers and 26 RBIs, while not making an error. Kyle hit .531 for the Mountaineers with eight doubles, six triples and nine home runs.
Sissonville senior Jenna Thomas rounds out the infield. The hard-hitting third baseman hit .490 with 13 homers and 52 RBIs.
Joining Humble as outfielders are Robert C. Byrd senior Tiara Snyder and Winfield freshman Kennedy Dean. Snyder moves up from the second team as a junior. She led the Eagles with a .497 average from her leadoff position and banged out 16 extra base hits in addition to stealing 17 bases. The speedy, strong-armed centerfielder made just one error. Dean batted .368 and clubbed eight homers with 30 RBIs for the Generals.
Rounding out the first unit are utility players Allie Mace of Roane County and Bradlea Hayhurst of Shady Spring. Mace, a sophomore, hit .633 with six homers and 54 RBIs, and was 14-6 in the circle. Hayhurst, a junior, hit .609 with eight homers and 49 RBIs.
Petersburg, Weir and Lewis County each placed two girls on the second unit.
Point Pleasant junior infielder Peyton Jordan was also named to the Class AA Second-Team.