University High softball set to open state tournament play against Greenbrier East

CHARLESTON — For the first time in 30 years, the University High School softball team will return to the state tournament to compete for the Class AAA title. The Hawks punched their tickets for the 2024 WVSSAC state softball tournament as Region I champions.

UHS (22-9) will play Region III champion Greenbrier East (21-9) in Game 1 this morning at 9:45 a.m. The Hawks defeated the Lady Spartans 10-7 on April 20 this season and are entering the week on a six-game winning streak.

“I hope we go down there with the mindset of it being just another game,” UHS coach Mindy Parks said. “If we play like that, we can let everything take over. If everything keeps coming together as it has for us recently, being undefeated through sectional and regional play, we know we can go out and have fun and let the game come to us.”

As Parks mentioned, the Hawks didn’t drop a game (5-0) on their road to the Region I title. During that span, they outscored opponents 54-14. UHS defeated its rival Morgantown in a 2-0 sweep in the regional championship series, including a Game 1 come-from-behind victory in the seventh inning.

UHS sophomores Maddie Campbell and Sophia Lehosit are the team’s two starting pitchers and leading batters.

Campbell enters the state tournament batting .465 with 40 hits and 27 RBI, including nine doubles and four home runs. She also leads the team with 40 runs scored on the season and has an 8-4 record in the circle with 74 strikeouts.

“Not many players get to have this experience, and we are trying to embrace it,” Campbell said. “When you think about only four teams in the entire state being down there, it shows you how special it is to go.”

Lehosit holds a .359 batting average with 28 hits and 19 RBI, with nine doubles of her own. She is 10-5 this season, spinning the ball with a .269 OBA and 3.87 ERA in 21 appearances.

“We are all super-excited and honored — this group of girls has a great bond on and off the field,” Lehosit said. “Some of us have been playing together since we were kids, so being able to do something you love and experience the atmosphere of states with your closest friends is special.”

Greenbrier East will make its first-ever appearance at the state tournament and, like the Hawks, enter 5-0 through postseason play. To qualify, the Spartans defeated George Washington in back-to-back games in the Region III championship series.

The GE duo of Alanis McClary and Alizabeth Wooding each have a .429 batting average, with McClary leading the way with 42 hits. The Spartans are allowing only 3.1 runs per contest this season. Kayla Bartley is 11-4 in the circle for East this season with a 1.58 OBA and 158 strikeouts.

“We had an excellent game against them last time, scoring 10 runs,” Parks said of the April 20 victory. “That week, including that win, set the tone for the rest of the season and our run. We saw some great teams and played well, greatly boosting our confidence.”

One thing that Campbell said UHS has going for them is the ability to keep fighting after falling behind in games.

“We’ve always been able to keep ourselves in the game if we give up the lead,” she said. “Or even with something like making an error on defense, we have been able to turn around and make up for that mistake with a good hit. It’s important to keep picking each other up and building on each inning one at a time.”

UHS will welcome sophomore Olivia Masoner, who leads the team in batting average at .475, back from injury for the state tournament. Masoner, the team’s starting catcher, has missed several weeks and is eager to make an impact. She has 29 hits and 22 RBI this season.

The first pitch between UHS and Greenbrier East is set for 9:45 a.m. from The Rock Field B at Little Creek Park in South Charleston. The winner will advance to the winners’ game in the evening, while the loser will play later in the afternoon in an elimination game against the loser of Cabell Midland and Washington.

TWEET @DomPostSports