Bluefield Daily Telegraph
It’s been a good year for our region’s high school girls in state tournament play.
Last Thursday, the James Monroe High School softball team reached the state finals for the first time in program history and earned the distinction of Class AA state runner-up.
Earlier this month, two Bluefield High School students, Claire Bailey and Molly Lovern, brought home a state championship in tennis doubles, after finishing second the year before.
The Bluefield boys team of Paul Hoffmann and Tyler Myers also reached the Class AA-A championship match at No. 3 doubles, and wound up state runners-up.
The Lady Mavericks from Lindside reached the championship game of the softball tournament, taking the state runners-up trophy after falling to Wayne High School, which has now won back-to-back titles.
It has been proven again and again that some teams, when they reach the state tournament level, are so awed by the experience that they cannot play to their potential. Others are, at least subconsciously, content with being able to say they “made it to the states” and already are willing to settle for less.
That was not the case with the Lady Mavericks, even though many veteran observers had already predicted that a repeat championship by the Wayne Pioneers was inevitable.
From the first day of softball practice, head coach Greg Wickline reported, they talked about their destiny of reaching the state tournament.
They had one of the state’s top pitchers. Senior Mikayla Wickline, the coach’s cousin, pitched 110 1/3 innings this season and struck out an amazing 211 batters.
James Monroe won 23 of 28 games to get to the state level. The only losses in that span by the Class AA Monroe countians were to four bigger-school, Class AAA teams.
The Lady Mavericks weren’t done when they reached the state tournament site near Parkersburg. In the four-team field, they edged out Petersburg and Ritchie County, by 2-1 scores in both games. In between, they faced Wayne High and fell behind 14-1, in a game that was suspended by lightning and was never resumed.
The Lady Mavericks woke up the next morning, put on their uniforms and survived an extra-inning game to reach the championship contest later that day. Once there, they took a 1-0 lead on the Pioneers before Wayne scored five straight runs to retain their state title.
Through it all, the girls on the team displayed good sportsmanship. They also showed a composure and ability to concentrate that was remarkable for a group of teenagers — and a team that had only three seniors.
James Monroe’s Greg Wickline said after the game, “This is our first rodeo, so I was very pleased with how they handled everything.”
As she left the ballpark, one James Monroe fan was heard to say, “They’re still No. 1 with us. They represented Monroe County well.”