CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Herbert Hoover softball team came one game short of making it to the state tournament last year, losing in the Class AA Region 4 championship to eventual state champion Wayne.
The Huskies are hoping to take the next step this season after a 22-5 finish in 2012, and, with the return of sophomore standout pitcher Allison Rager, Hoover Coach Missy Smith has high hopes.
"We are looking to build on last season," Smith said. "Our goal every year is to win the state championship. We have good teams in our region and always have. It feels like whoever makes it out has won the championship. We want to be that team this year."
Rager returns after an impressive freshman season that saw her sport a 20-3 record with 163 strikeouts in 149 innings and a 1.27 earned run average. She also hit .427.
"Allison was very impressive as a freshman," Smith said. "It's exciting for me and the coaches to have her back. She makes my life easier for sure. I wish I had an exact clone of her but I will take the one I have.
"She is a dual threat and is a student of the game. We have already talked before the season about game plans on different teams and individuals. She looks to be in mid-season form already."
Smith also returns quite a bit of talent in senior catcher Damia Mogielski and senior first baseman Amber Oaks. Three juniors in their second season starting are back in McKenzie Edmonds, Ashleigh Tignor and Mikayla Craze.
Sophomore Katie Angle is a returning starter in the outfield, while Zoey Carte and Caroline Thornburg will have expanded roles.
A look at other Class AA and Class A teams in the Kanawha Valley:
Sissonville - With a team mostly consisting of freshman, Coach Niki Gross knows the Indians will have their fair share of ups and downs, but has a talented group to build toward the future.
"We are really young with 11 freshmen out of 16 players, but they won the middle school championship last year, so they are very talented," Gross said. "We are excited at what we have."
Several of the freshmen include shortstop Karli Pinkerton, who already has enjoyed successful individual seasons with the Sissonville soccer and basketball programs. The others are Alexee Haynes, Brey Stone, Raegan Johnson and Makenzi Whittington.
With all the freshmen, Gross will rely even heavier on returning standout Bekah Baldwin. The senior pitcher/first baseman hit .506 last season with 10 home runs, 15 doubles, and 36 RBI and struck out 94 batters in 93 innings.