CHARLESTON - Throughout the 2014 season, Allison Rager was quick to redirect any talk of her being a dominant player into conversation about the overall strength of the Herbert Hoover Huskies softball team.
As the Huskies clinched their first state championship in the sport by downing Ritchie County for the Class AA title, however, Rager's statistical importance to Hoover's accomplishment was undeniable, and the West Virginia Sports Writers Association in turn chose her as its state Player of the Year.
Even in the individual victory, Rager kept her focus on the big picture.
"It's just really awesome that all my hard work and the work of all the people that have helped me and pushed me to get through to this point is paying off," said Rager, who has committed to play softball after high school at Morehead State University.
The junior pitcher finished the year with a 24-5 record, an earned run average of 0.95 and 178 strikeouts in 161 2/3 innings. Rager, who was the Huskies' leadoff hitter as they went 32-6, hit .500 with 10 home runs, 54 RBIs, 20 doubles and 53 runs scored. Her slugging percentage for the year was .931.
Her numbers are impressive enough on their own, but Rager's batting average was .109 higher than the second-highest on her team, highlighting her role in the title run for the Huskies (32-6). She had 23 more RBIs than the No. 2 player in that category on the Hoover roster.
Rager said she adopted a somewhat different approach to playing the game after being named to the Class AA all-state team in each of her first two years in high school.
"In the last two years I was there, but this year we had a lot more freshmen and sophomores. I wanted to lead by example," Rager said. "I didn't want to be a person who bosses everybody else around, and I wanted to be a good role model for the girls on the team."
At no other time was that apparent than in the state championship game. After opening the state tournament by going 1-for -7 at the plate, Rager hit three doubles during the title game, sparking Hoover to a 12-6 win over Ritchie County.
Rager was at her best through the most vital stretch of the year, once the Huskies reached regional play. From that point onward Rager went 5-0 with a 0.80 ERA and struck out 42 in 35 innings. Her one-hit shutout in the Region IV 1-0 championship game win helped eliminate two-time defending state champion Wayne.
Incidentally, Rager scored that game's only run. Lincoln County senior pitcher/first baseman Brooke West finished second in voting while Ritchie County sophomore pitcher/first baseman Kenna DeLancey finished third.