VIENNA - When you win back-to-back-to-back Class AA state softball titles, there is little doubt that your coaching staff have developed a solid plan on how to be successful.
Case in point is the Wayne Pioneers of coach Tish Smith.
Making the trek back to the Rosemar Softball Complex in search of a third straight championship, the veteran coach realized that a lot of her team's hopes rested on the arm of junior hurler Jessie Rowe.
A two-time, first team all-state performer, Rowe took to the pitching rubber in the Pioneers' opening contest against last year's state runner-up Ritchie County and hurled a complete-game, four-hitter to lead Wayne to a 4-1 victory. She followed that performance with a six-hitter in a 14-1 victory against James Monroe in the winners' bracket semifinals.
But, those would not be the highlights of her third trip to the state finals as Rowe took to the mound on the tournament's final day and pitched a two-hitter as the Pioneers three-peated with a 5-1 victory against James Monroe.
"Jessie (Rowe) is just a phenomenal little player," said 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.
It is little reason why Rowe is among the 18 girls selected to the Class AA First Team All-State Softball team selected by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association.
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, Sissonville's Alexee Haynes, Scott's Allyson Johnson, Laine Shifflett from James Monroe 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, while Shifflett, the Mavericks top hitter with a .486 average, 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, Wyoming East's Chelsea 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. Duncan, also a senior, hit at a .535 and amassed 20 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' Mikayla 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.
Wickline, a senior, posted an 11-2 pitching mark and was one of the Mavericks' top hitters, while 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.
Numbers that earned her the captain's spot on the unit.