By Jim Butta
The News and Sentinel
James Monroe was a very young softball team, with five freshmen or sophomores in its lineup.
Fortunately, the Mavericks had a great leader.
Senior pitcher Mikayla Wickline was the steady influence for the Mavs as they advanced to the Class AA state tournament finals in Vienna.
Wickline won two of four games at states, losing twice to eventual champion Wayne, to conclude her season with a 15-4 record. Going into states she had an 0.47 ERA, with 172 strikeouts and 29 walks in 89 innings pitched.
She also batted .291 — .364 with runners in scoring position. She now caps off her season by being named to the Class AA All-State softball team, as named by a committee of the W.Va. Sports Writers Association.
“Mikayla has started since she was a sophomore and she’s mentally tough,” coach Greg Wickline said. “Plus we were solid on defense, and that helped her. When (opponents) made contact, she knew we had her back.”
Wickline, who was named at a utility position, is joined on the all-state first team by Mavericks’ third baseman Lane Shiflet and Wyoming East outfielder Chelsea Duncan.
Shiftlet, a sophomore, led James Monroe with a .493 batting average. She hit six home runs, drove in 31 runs and scored 26 herself.
Duncan, a senior and fourth-year standout, hit at a torrid .516 clip for the Warriors. She had six doubles and three triples.
Westside sophomore Cassidee Blankenship (19-5 record, 2.14 ERA, 187 strikeouts; .382 batting average with eight triples) was a second-team selection at pitcher.
Wayne’s Jesse Rowe, a junior, is making her third appearance on the AA all-state pitching staff.
Rowe won three games at states, including a two-hit performance in a 5-1 win over James Monroe in the finals.
“Jessie is just a phenomenal little player,” said Pioneers coach Tish Smith. “She has an extraordinary ability to place the ball with four of her pitches.
“She never gets rattled. The more pressure, the better she performs.”
And, perform Rowe did, pitching all 18 innings during the two-day event, allowing 12 hits, three runs (only two earned) and walking three batters while striking out 19.
Rowe, her teammate Jessica Watts, Herbert Hoover’s Allison Rager and Braxton County’s Charity Ramsey are all repeat selections, while Robert C. Byrd’s Mecca Henderson made the move from Class AAA to Class AA by being chosen.
Joining Rowe on the team’s five-girl pitching staff is Rager, Henderson, Petersburg’s Marley Thompson and Ritchie County’s Moie Ray. Henderson closed out her time at RCB by striking out 198 batters in 173 innings of work, while Thompson brought the Vikings back to Vienna as the junior posted an 11-3 mark with 74 strikeouts and a 1.14 earned run average.
Ray, only a sophomore, finished with a 13-2 mark, striking out 73 batters she faced during the season.
Manning the infield is Watts (a .328 hitter), Shifflet from James Monroe, Sissonville’s Alexee Haynes, Scott’s Allyson Johnson and Brittany Bible from Petersburg.
Haynes, who posted an 8-3 pitching record, batted .506 at the plate with six home runs and 30 runs-batted-in. Shiflet and Bible (.479, 5 HR, 31 RBI) were big reasons for their teams making it to Vienna.
The first-team outfield is made up of Ramsey, Duncan and Herbert Hoover’s Mikayla Craze.
Ramsey, a senior, made the most of her final season in Sutton by hitting .508 at the plate, including two home runs, three triples and six doubles.
Catchers named to the first unit include Robert C. Byrd’s Katie Powell and Ritchie County’s Abby Burgess, while the three utility spots are manned by the Mavericks’ Wickline, Wayne’s Kasey Endicott and the Rebels’ Kenna Delancey.
Powell put together quite a senior season, hitting .560 at the plate with four home runs and 16 RBI, while Burgess, who was taking over a position manned by four-time, first-team performer Allison Delancey, made the most of her first season behind the plate by hitting .517 with a pair of round-trippers.
And, while those numbers are impressive, they pale in comparison to those posted by the unit’s trio of utility players.
Endicott hit .377 with eight home runs, but, more importantly, played flawless softball at her third base position.
Rounding out the trio is Delancey, only a freshman. In her first season of varsity softball all Delancey did was hit a lofty .652 at the plate with nine home runs, seven triples, six doubles and 41 RBI and 37 stolen bases. On the mound, she posted a 13-1 mark with 109 strikeouts in 70 innings of work.
Those numbers earned her the captain’s spot on the unit.
Named to the second team as pitchers was Lincoln’s Sami Elder, Braxton County’s Taylor Bragg, Westside’s Blankenship, Roane County’s Casey Lassiter and Erin Wambaugh of Grafton.
The unit’s infield includes Cassidy Ray of Ritchie County, Tori Rovello of Bridgeport, Robert C. Byrd’s Alicia Noble (captain), Allison Pritt of Braxton County, and Allison Winans of Lincoln.
Tori Postlewait of East Fairmont, Emily Fry of Wayne and Kaitlyn Keplinger of Petersburg make up the outfield, while the Indians’ Miki Glenn and Ravenswood’s Sidnee Morgan are the catchers.
Second-team utility players are Bekah Baldwin of Sissonville, Danielle Fluharty of North Marion and Ravenswood’s Katie Buckbee.
The Register-Herald’s Dan Stillwell contributed to this story.