Prep softball: Sissonville senior has big plans
The Sissonville High School softball team began the season with five freshman starters among 10 total ninth graders, creating plenty of uncertainty.
Despite the youth, Coach Niki Gross knew she could count on senior Bekah Baldwin.
With the West Virginia State University signee paving the way, Sissonville isn't just looking to the future.
Sissonville (17-12) is one win away from an improbable State Tournament berth when the unranked Indians hit the road for Thursday's 6 p.m. Region 4 final against defending Class AA state champion Wayne (23-6).
"We want it for the program, but we want it for Bekah just as much," Gross said. "We just want her season to go out on a good note. It would be phenomenal and would mean the world to her."
Wayne has won both regular-season meetings this season by a combined score of 14-1, including a 5-1 victory at Wayne.
Sissonville is hoping for a repeat performance after it knocked off No. 2 Herbert Hoover Thursday in the Regional 4 semifinal. The Huskies swept Sissonville by a combined score of 5-3 during the regular season, including a 3-2 win at Sissonville in eight innings.
"We have talked about Wayne a lot since the Hoover game," Gross said. "We have played them twice, and lost both times. We saw their pitcher. We know what they are capable of.
"We have built up a lot of confidence since the Hoover game. We are focused on Thursday and will give it everything we have. We are ready. I think we will be just fine and be able to hang with them."
Baldwin knows what is at stake.
"It feels great, but this is the biggest game of the season," Baldwin said. "We just need to stay focused and come in like we did against Hoover. We can do it."
With so much youth on the team, Baldwin knew she needed to step up her game until the freshmen weren't playing like freshmen.
"Yeah I did," Baldwin said. "I was like, 'I have to do this.' But we have all come together and the freshmen have taken the pressure off me. I'm really proud of all of them. I don't see them as freshmen anymore."
Gross was pleased with Baldwin since day one this season.
"With such a young team, she (Baldwin) knew she was the only senior starter," Gross said. "She took these girls under her wing and brought them up. She has shown great leadership.
Baldwin, Sissonville's cleanup hitter, leads the team in runs batted in (35) and triples (4). She is the second on the team in batting average (.453), doubles (11), home runs (4).
Baldwin is the team's pitching ace with a 9-9 record and 2.50 earned run average. She has 99 strikeouts.
A two-sport star at Sissonville, Baldwin helped guide the Indian volleyball team to the State Tournament twice.
She had the option of playing volleyball or softball next season at West Virginia State after receiving scholarships in both sports, but opted for softball.
Baldwin will continue her playing career with West Virginia State, as it plays its inaugural season in the Mountain East Conference after winning the final WVC title.
However, she isn't looking past Thursday when Baldwin has a chance to achieve a milestone.
"I've never been to the state tournament with softball," Baldwin said.
"I wouldn't know how it would feel, but I really want it. It's a huge opportunity ahead of us."