Monarchs Return To State Tourney
John Marshall Looking to Add on to Recent Success
SOUTH CHARLESTON — One word that John Marshall softball coach Ed West uses to describe the school’s softball program is consistent.
The Monarchs have finished as state runners-up in four of the last 11 years and won the state title in 2012.
This year’s team has the potential to add to that legacy as it opens the double elimination WVSSAC State Softball Tournament at 9:30 a.m. today against Jefferson (27-5) at Little Creek Park’s Craft Field in South Charleston.
A victory will send John Marshall (21-8) into tonight’s game against the winner of St. Albans (24-5) and Lincoln County (23-4), while a loss will set up an elimination game against the loser of St. Albans and Lincoln County at 4:30 p.m. tonight.
After being eliminated by Washington on Day 1 of the tournament last year, many Monarchs return from that team hungry to redeem themselves.
“Anytime you get a chance to experience the state tournament it really helps your team to return again,” West said. “I’ve coached other sports as well as softball and it’s a big plus once you get there. Years ago in 2010, we weren’t really happy with our performance when we made it but we got back in 2011 and finished second and in 2012 we won it all.
“We’re very fortunate that we have been so consistent over the last 10 years. We’ve had quality teams on the field and we look forward to the state tournament every year and it’s one of our goals every year.”
One member of last year’s team who has helped lift the squad back to state this year is star pitcher Kadence Pettit, who comes into the state tournament with a 0.97 ERA, 207 strikeouts, only 28 walks and 19 earned runs allowed in 137 innings pitched.
Ryleigh Morgan has also been a reliable option in the circle for JM this year with a 2.77 ERA, 43 strikeouts and 13 walks in 48 innings.
“Kadence has been very consistent in the postseason,” West said. “The OVAC Championship, the sectional and the regional — she’s been outstanding.
“Ryleigh Morgan has been a very good No. 2 pitcher for us, as well. Not all teams have a good No. 2. Sometimes they rely on one most of the time but both of them are capable of holding their own and we will need Ryleigh in a tournament such as this one since it’s double elimination.”
Leading the offense this year has been none other than shortstop Ava Blake, who is batting .441 with seven home runs, 41 total hits, 31 RBI and 32 runs scored.
“Ava has been very consistent this year,” West said. “She’s been clutch when we needed her to be. Last year as a freshman she had a good year but she’s even stepped up more this year, hitting for a higher average and more power. She’s been more consistent at shortstop. She’s had a strong season.
“We’re pretty fortunate because we believe we can hit from top to bottom. Our bottom hitters have come through at times and that sparks everybody else. We’re very confident that we can score at any time at any part of our lineup.”
Another player who adds to that confidence in the lineup and in the outfield is center fielder Sophia Adkins, who is hitting .379 with 33 hits, 19 RBI, 22 runs and a triple.
“Sophia has played center field and catcher sometimes for us,” West said. “She’s had a really solid year and she hit above .400 most of the time. She’s very versatile and she came in as a pitcher, a catcher and an infielder but we converted her to an outfielder. We can put her anywhere and she does a really good job. She’s come along nicely with the bat and she is an OVAC All-Star. We’re very pleased with her.”
One thing is certain, Adkins and the rest of the Monarchs will be ready for the challenge this time around.