Prep softball: Rager locks down on Sissonville, Hoover wins
SISSONVILLE, W.Va. - Herbert Hoover softball Coach Missy Smith said Monday night that Huskies sophomore pitcher Allison Rager can glean motivation from the most obscure sources.
Rager's emotional boost Monday came in the form of a two-run, game-tying single from Sissonville's Abi Jordan. After allowing nine of the first 16 Sissonville batters to reach base, Rager settled immediately after Jordan's hit, and kept the hosts at bay the rest of the way in order for top-ranked Hoover (8-1) to escape with a 3-2 win in eight innings.
"I just tried to work the corners and worked with whatever the umpire was giving us," Rager said after she retired 16 of the final 19 Sissonville (8-5) hitters and finished with six strikeouts.
Once the game was extended to extra innings, Hoover wasted little time in manufacturing a run. Ashleigh Tignor led off with a double, and pinch-runner Halie Fields moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Zoey Carte. Senior Amber Oaks brought home the eventual winning run with a ground ball to second that was too deep to allow Sissonville freshman second baseman Regan Johnson to catch Fields at home.
Rager hit Taylor Legg with a pitch with two outs in the bottom of the eighth on a somewhat controversial call. Rager said after the game she believed that Legg turned into the 1-2 pitch. She admitted that the call threw off her concentration when facing Jordan again, who immediately followed Legg.
The Sissonville freshman walked before Rager was able to elicit a comebacker to the circle from Andrea Harmon to end the game.
"Different things will motivate her. Even things that you don't even know, like a borderline call that doesn't go her way or if (the opposing team's players) cheer exceptionally loud. Weird things that you wouldn't think would affect her, like anything can really set her off," Smith said.
"When she's mad look out, 'cause she throws some smoke."
She also got the job done at the plate for the Huskies. Thanks to a pair of first-inning Sissonville errors, Rager came to the plate in position to bring home a pair of runs with her single off Indians senior starter Bekah Baldwin.
The Indians, who made their first appearance in the West Virginia Sportswriters Class AA Softball Poll on Monday at No. 10, had their chances in the opening innings. However, a combination of Rager strikeouts and impressive defense led to Sissonville stranding six runners before the fourth inning.
"We had that big inning and we got the girls up, but we just seemed to not let things get going," Sissonville Coach Nikki Gross said. "We left too many baserunners on, and we had too many strikeouts looking."
Of Rager's six strikeouts, five were called third strikes.
Hoover also benefited from errorless defense that at times was sterling.
With runners on first and second and Johnson at the plate, Hoover second baseman Caroline Thornburg tracked down a looping line drive that appeared headed for no-man's land, and snagged it for a harmless third out.
Thornburg had four putouts and an assist in the win, which Rager said was a bit of a wake-up call for her team.
"I think we underestimated them a little, but we have three girls playing new positions and all three of them played really well on defense tonight," Rager said.
Thornburg, Carte -- at shortstop -- and third baseman McKenzie Edmonds are all first-year starters for the Huskies' infield.
"That was huge," Smith said of Thornburg's highlight-reel grab. "She is so quick, and reads the ball off the bat so well that her range is phenomenal at second base."
Tignor was 3-for-4 in the win, while leadoff hitter Mikayla Craze was 2-for-5. Baldwin, who struck out four in the hard-luck loss, was 2-for-3 for the Indians.
Contact Preps Editor Derek Taylor at email@example.com or 304-348-5170. Follow him on Twitter @ItsreallyDT