PARKERSBURG - Perhaps the longest-awaited championship parade in the state took place May 30 on the streets of Seth, home of Sherman High School. Coach Jim Henderson's softball group celebrated the first team title in any sport in school history.
Smiles and cheers were abundant and one of the biggest grins sat fixed on the face of junior pitcher Autumn Thompson. After two years of close calls at the state tournament at Jackson Memorial Park in Vienna, she and her teammates were finally state champions.
More good news followed shortly after Thompson struck out 11 and scattered three hits in an 8-0 shutout of three-time defending champion Wheeling Central in the Class A title game - she was named captain of the Class A All-State first team, as voted on by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association.
"It feels amazing but I feel like I worked so hard to get here and I showed everybody you don't have to be from a big school to do what you do. You just have to work hard," she said after she allowed just a single run in three state tournament games.
Thompson fired on all cylinders inside the circle this season for Henderson and the Tide. She compiled a 28-4 record and a 0.59 earned run average to go with 301 strikeouts in the regular season.
Henderson said Thompson's teammates fed off of her determination.
"The rest of the girls just trail right after her offensively and defensively," he said. "She is the spark and it catches our fire real quick."
Teammate Katlyn Jenkins joined her on the top squad. The first baseman brought a .452 batting average along with four home runs, 20 RBIs and five doubles to the champions' cause.
Players from two other regional champions line up alongside Jenkins in the infield.
Wheeling Central third baseman Jairika Baylor scorched opposing pitching to the tune of a .553 average with four home runs and 14 RBIs from the leadoff spot. Greenbrier West's Kenley Posten brought considerable power, but could also set the table during the Cavaliers' run to their state tournament debut. The junior shortstop slammed 11 home runs with 43 RBIs with a .479 average and a .523 on-base percentage.
Moorefield's Rebekah Markwood and Gilmer County shortstop Taylor McHenry round out the five infield spots. Markwood, a jack-of-all trades defensively, helped the Yellow Jackets to a second straight regional final appearance batting .500 with seven doubles, three triples, four homers and 25 RBIs.
McHenry wasted little time making an immediate impact for the Little Kanawha Conference champions, combining speed and power with a .515 average along with a 1.140 on-base-plus-slugging percentage with 14 doubles, eight triples, two home runs and 34 RBIs.
Clay-Battelle, who joined Greenbrier East in making its Vienna debut, didn't go wanting for representation. The Cee-Bees' Rylee Burnette grabbed one of the three outfield spots after batting .421 and getting on base in almost half of her at bats with a .492 OBP.
Calhoun County's Katie Jones and Ravenswood's Rylin Tabor roam the final two spots.
Tabor exploded in her junior season as the Red Devils advanced to the sectional final against Wahama. She registered 28 extra-base hits (20 doubles, four triples and four home runs) and brought home 50 teammates with a .580 OBP and 1.545 OPS. Jones meanwhile pounded out 11 doubles while hitting .517 in the middle of Calhoun's order.
A senior and two underclassmen complete the roster in the circle.
Clay-Battelle's Caitlyn Kassay earned 15 of the Cee-Bees' 26 regular-season wins to go with just one loss, an 0.68 ERA and 241 strikeouts in 110 innings. Ritchie County's Chloe Elliott overcame elbow tendinitis on the way to an 18-7 record with 265 strikeouts and a 0.77 ERA. Thirdly, Tug Valley newcomer Autumn Hall led the Lady Panthers to their best season in school history during her first varsity season as they posted a 23-13 record and advanced all the way to the Region IV Section II Championship game.
The 23 wins was a school record and it was the first time they had advanced to the section championship game under the current format.
Hall posted absurd numbers in the circle during the 2019 campaign as she started 29 games, finished with an 18-12 record coupled with a 1.98 earned run average, and struck out 327 batters in 190 innings pitched.
She struck out double-digit batters in a game 17 times, struck out 15 batters or more seven times, and struck out 21 batters in a win against East Ridge, Kentucky on March 23.
She averaged just over 12 strikeouts per seven innings pitched which is the length of a regulation game in high school softball. Buffalo's Abby Darnley and Notre Dame's Isabelle McKinsey earned the catching slots.
Darnley slugged 15 home runs with 12 doubles and 48 RBIs on the way to a .573 batting average. McKinsey provided power for the Irish as well. She hit .491 with a team-leading four homers and 26 RBIs.
Magnolia's Ashley Tharp (.486, seven homers, a 1.90 ERA and 159 strikeouts in 118 innimgs), Buffalo's Lindsey Russell (.460, 43 RBIs, four triples, five doubles, and an 11-7 record), Greenbrier West's Camryn Dorsey (.586, two home runs, and 27 RBIs), and Wirt County's Maddy Richards (.460, 10 doubles, two triples, two home runs, 23 RBIs and 130 strikeouts in 86 2/3 innings) filled in the utility positions.
Van shortstop Karlie LaFauci captained the second team. She hit .514 with 43 RBIs, 12 doubles, eight triples and four home runs.
Jarrid McCormick of the Williamson Daily News contributed to this report