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HUNTINGTON — In the 2022 season, Lincoln County’s softball lineup was one that the opposition tried to avoid as much as possible.

That was especially the case for slugger Josie Bird, who led the state in home runs in 2021 and was as big of a threat in 2022.

This season, Bird’s biggest impact was not always felt at the plate as teams elected to pitch around her, which opened the way for other players to contribute as well.

Still, Bird managed to find ways to hamper the opposition’s game plans, even if it meant stepping into the box and immediately walking to first base, which happened 12 times in the postseason alone.

Those intentional walks did not deter Bird, however, as she remained committed to helping her team as best as possible.

“I can’t control what other teams do, whether they pitch to me or not,” Bird said. “If they do, great. I’m going to try to do my job for my team. If they put me on, that just gives my teammates a baserunner on, which puts pressure on, too.”

When Bird was able to keep the bat in her hands, she showed her abilities well, finishing the season with a .488 average with 10 home runs and 47 RBIs to go with 29 walks — 21 of which were intentional.

Those numbers and her impact on the game were enough to make her the Class AAA All-State first-team captain in voting by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association.

“Josie really changes a game up with her abilities,” Lincoln County head coach Tommy Barrett said. “Teams really have to game-plan for her bat. When teams first started walking her she struggled with it a bit, but she really found a rhythm as the year went on. When she’s at the plate there’s no doubt that she’s the most dangerous player on the field.”

Bird helped Lincoln County to a 24-6 record and a berth in the Class AAA Tournament.

The Panthers joined St. Albans in having three first-team selections, with Bird being joined by Lincoln County infielder Haleigh Adkins (.475, seven home runs, 25 RBIs, 46 runs) and utility player Ryleigh Shull (.406, eight home runs, 35 RBIs, plus a 16-3 record and 2.76 ERA).

St. Albans’ three first-team selections were pitcher Tayven Stephenson (16-5, 1.32 ERA, 187 strikeouts), infielder Sydney Young (.479, nine home runs, 33 RBIs) and utility player Punkie Harper (.476, 13 home runs, 41 RBIs).

Class AAA state runner-up John Marshall led three teams with two first-team selections as pitcher Kadence Pettit (0.98 ERA, 187 strikeouts) and infielder Ava Blake (.469, seven home runs, 31 RBIs) both represented the Monarchs.

Cabell Midland and Spring Valley also had two players make the first team. Both the Knights’ selections were utility players with Quinn Ballengee and Jess Terry each earning the nod.

Ballengee hit .500 on the season with 11 home runs and 28 RBIs while also stealing 15 bases out of the leadoff spot. She also was a key pitcher in the Cabell Midland rotation, along with Terry, who sported a .366 average at the plate while going 16-3 in the circle with a 1.94 ERA and 112 strikeouts.

Spring Valley outfielder Jenna Christopher and pitcher Madison Pitts were also named as first-teamers. Christopher hit .434 on the year and had 26 steals while Pitts had 15 wins in the circle and a 2.02 ERA.

State champion Jefferson was represented by infielder Lacie Lewis, who notched a key two-out hit in the seventh inning of the state tourney opener against John Marshall to force extra innings and help the Cougars stay in the winners bracket.

Joining Lewis and Blake on the first-team infield are Hurricane’s Alivia Meeks and Woodrow Wilson’s Kayla Byrd.

Washington’s Maddy Ruffner (0.93 ERA, 180 strikeouts) and University’s Autumn Stemple (12-6, 0.95 ERA, 219 strikeouts) were also named to the first team as pitchers while South Charleston’s Hallie Dinklocker (.438, 15 stolen bases) rounded out the outfield.

The second-team captain was Morgantown senior Breonna Marietta.

Grant Traylor is HD Media’s regional sports editor. He can be reached at 304-526-2773 or gtraylor@hdmediallc.com. Follow him on Twitter @GrantTraylor.

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