Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

PREP SOFTBALL - SMALL SCHOOL PREVIEW ; Sissonville Gears Up for Another Run

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

PREP SOFTBALL - SMALL SCHOOL PREVIEW ; Sissonville Gears Up for Another Run

Article excerpt

If it were in any other region, defending Class AA state champion Sissonville would be sitting pretty and confident entering the 2016 prep softball season. As it is, however, returning seven starters, including its top two pitchers, from a team that finished the 2015 season at 28-5 means much less than it would in other parts of West Virginia.

"I've said it for years, I think the Cardinal Conference is the best conference we've got in this area, Indians coach Niki Gross said. "Region 4 is tough too, and it's a shame only one team gets to come out of there but that's the way it is. I know Chapmanville's going to have a real good team this year and I'm hearing good things about Poca.

Senior pitcher/third baseman and University of Pittsburgh recruit Alexee Haynes returns to lead the Indians after sitting out her final season of basketball to prepare for the spring. Haynes led the Indians in hitting as a junior, batting .527 with four home runs, 13 doubles, three triples and 39 RBI. She was 12-2 pitching with 86 strikeouts and a 1.80 ERA.

A key development in Sissonville's run to its first state softball title since 2002, however, was the emergence of pitcher Kendal Parkins during her freshman season. Parkins was 14-3 with 92 strikeouts and a 1.92 ERA, and pitched every inning of the Indians' three wins in the state tournament.

"We have a nice 1-2 punch with Lexee and Kendall, Gross said. "It's the kind of combo that can dominate in pitching.

Sissonville will face its Cardinal Conference rivals with plenty of experience elsewhere. Senior shortstop Karli Pinkerton - like Haynes an All-State choice in 2015 - hit .378 with a homer and 10 stolen bases while playing sharp defense the entire year. Pinkerton's cousin and fellow senior Reagan Johnson is back at second base. Seniors Abbey Jordan and Taylor Casto return at first base and center field, respectively.

One spot Gross must fill in as the Indians begin their quest for a repeat is an important one. Katelyn Linville (.386) was an All- State catcher as a junior in 2014 and continued to play the position well in her final season, which gets underway when the Indians play host to Capital on Thursday.

"That was a big loss that we're going to have to make up for, Gross said. "Right now we're working two girls out there and we haven't made up our minds which one we're going to go with.

Gross said that juniors Brooke Young and Olivia Montgomery are vying for the starting spot at catcher. Both have played the position in junior varisty play as well as in middle school.

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Sissonville doesn't have to look far for a threat to its conference and regional crowns. Herbert Hoover, which won the state title in 2014, must find a reliable replacement for four-year starter and 2014 state player of the year Allison Rager - now a freshman at Morehead State - but coach Missy Smith has made a career of finding new players and winning championships. …

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