By Luke Wiggs, Panhandle News Network Sports

Martinsburg, W.Va- Jefferson claiming the 2022 state softball Championship was a welcome change from the southern West Virginia dominance of the past 7 years, and the first panhandle title since Martinsburg claimed the first ever trophy for softball in 1981.

Jefferson returns to regional play with a hunger to go back-to-back, but their opponent in the Eagles of Hedgesville presents a stalwart challenge and have their own plans of reaching Charleston.

Jefferson defeated Hedgesville both times in their regular season meetings. On March 27th, Taylor Presley, Shelby Harris, Kalee Dalton, and Chloe Cowan all provided multiple hits in a 10-2 Cougar victory, in the circle, Becca Munslow struck out 6 and both runs against her were unearned.

The second game was more lopsided. Propelled by an 11 run 3rd inning, Jefferson claimed the second regular season matchup 17-2. In the victory, Munslow struck out 11 hitters, and Dalton drove in an astounding 7 runs.

These 2 games exemplify the complete roster that the (19-6) Cougars have under coach Desire Waters, who were undefeated against panhandle teams in the regular season.

But beating the same team 3-4 times in a season is tough, let alone one as talented as Hedgesville.

The (19-10) Eagles have won 3 in a row coming into this regional series by a combined score of 25-12. Hedgesville’s calling card has certainly been their offense, scoring 10 runs or more in 13 games this year.

The Berkeley County club is hitting .338 under coach Forte, and an impressive .353 with runners in scoring position.

Brenna Collis leads the way in on base percentage (.539) doubles (9) and along with teammate Kelsea Vandine, is hitting over .400.

Vandine leads the way on the rubber for the Eagles with over 80 innings pitched and over 100 strikeouts. Hedgesville also boasts Gracie Brown who may be the wild card of the whole series.

The freshman leads Hedgesville with 7 home runs and was crucial in relief of Vandine in the Eagles sectional victory against Musselman.

Hedgesville trailed when Brown entered in the 4th, she spun 4 scoreless innings that allowed the Eagles to score 8 runs in the 5th to win the game, with the go ahead hit supplied by Vandine.

While the lion’s share of attention may go to the reigning state champion Cougars in this series, I think the Eagles have a few tricks up their sleeves and some very competitive softball left to play.

You can Listen to all 3 games here on the Panhandle News Network.