Ritchie edges Petersburg, 1-0

VIENNA – An eight-run bottom of the sixth propelled Herbert Hoover to its first state softball crown here Thursday afternoon at Jackson Park as the Huskies rallied past Ritchie County for a 12-6 Class AA title game triumph.

“It feels so great today anyway,” said victorious Hoover head coach Missy Smith moments after getting drenched with a cooler full of water courtesy of right fielder Kati Angle.

“It was an awesome feat. They came out in the sixth inning, made a statement and left no doubt. We talked all along we’re not being happy to just get here.”

Ritchie County’s trek to the championship game was anything but easy.

The Rebels (27-7) came up short in the winner’s bracket final early Thursday morning by a score of 7-1 against Herbert Hoover as Huskies pitcher Allison Rager dominated with a three-hitter and recorded 15 strikeouts. Teammates McKenzie Edmonds and Madison Bowles had consecutive two-run singles during a key four-run fifth as the Huskies made a narrow 2-1 advantage stretch to five runs.

Head coach Dave Mossor’s Rebels, who were in the state tournament field for a fifth straight campaign, needed to defeat Petersburg in the loser’s bracket final to advance to the championship game.

Kenna DeLancey’s solo home run in the top of the first was the only score in the game and the Vikings (24-7) failed to get a hit. Moie Ray got the win and tossed the first five frames with five strikeouts. DeLancey finished off the no-hitter by pitching the final two innings for the save. She had four strikeouts.

Rager, who allowed seven hits, three earned runs and had seven strikeouts to register the win, started the championship game by leading off the bottom of the first with a double off the fence in left.

Although teammate Ashleigh Tignor singled with one out, Rager had already made it a 1-0 cushion when she scored on a DeLancey wild pitch.

Needing to defeat Herbert Hoover twice to capture the state crown, the Rebels were just glad to have a lead and that came after the squad from Ellenboro pushed across three runs in the top of the third. Vanessa Tallman reached on an error and Becca Sullivan made it to first on a fielder’s choice. DeLancey nearly clobbered an opposite-field three-run bomb, but the ball hit just below the top of the fence in left as Tallman scored to tie it. Ray later followed with a key two-run single to right for the 3-1 lead.

Hoover wasted little time getting the runs back as Rager started a two-out rally with a double. Angle then doubled herself and she scored on an Edmonds run-scoring single.

DeLancey’s two-run moon shot to right-center, which went an estimated 240 feet and plated pinch-runner Cali Hayes, gave the Rebel faithful plenty to cheer about with a 5-3 lead heading to the bottom of the fifth.

Ray came into pitch for DeLancey in the fifth, but a trio of Rebel errors led to an unearned run.

Rager needed just 14 pitches to retire Ritchie County in order during the top of the sixth and then everything went awry for the Rebels in the home half of the inning.

Herbert Hoover’s No. 8 hitter, Mikayla Craze, produced the first RBI when her single plated Madison Bowles, who started the sixth with an infield hit. With runners at second and third, the Rebels tried to intentionally walk Rager to load the bases, but the junior took a 2-0 offering which came across the plate and belted it into left-center for a two-run double. Angle had an RBI single and with the help of four more errors as well as a bases-loaded free pass to Carte, Hoover was in complete control.

“I didn’t think that 5-3 would be enough,” Mossor said of his team’s short-lived lead. “We ran out of gas, just ran out of gas. We hit a wall and everything went wrong. I don’t think we hit the ball well at all.

“One or two players can’t do it. I’m extremely pleased. I had no idea we’d make it this far. We faced a great team and the wheels fell off.”

DeLancey, who added an RBI single and a stolen base in the top of the seventh, was joined on the all-tournament team by Tallman, Ray, Rager, Angle, Craze, Edmonds, Westside’s Cassie Blankenship and the Petersburg duo of Brittani Bible and Cassidy Hedrick.

Herbert Hoover grabbed the sportsmanship award.