Win or go home
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Confidence is key this time of year especially, when everything in high school softball comes down to one game the next two weeks.
First up today are the regional semifinals, with six Kanawha Valley squads vying for berths in next week's finals, where a state tournament berth will be on the line.
South Charleston (19-9) hosts No. 10 Ripley (16-6) at 6 p.m. in Class AAA Region 3 while No. 8 St. Albans (27-4) visits Point Pleasant (17-7) at 6 p.m. and No. 3 Hurricane hosts No. 2 Cabell Midland at 6 p.m. in Region 4.
In AA, No. 2 Herbert Hoover (23-3) hosts Sissonville (15-12) at 6 p.m. in Region 4, and in Class A, two-time defending state champion Buffalo (28-4) visits Wahama (20-11) at 6 p.m. in Region 4. (See Page 2B for regional pairings.)
No team among the Valley's half dozen probably has as much momentum as Buffalo, which enters on a 16-game winning streak.
"The kids are very confident in what they're doing,'' said coach Darrell Moore, who also guided the Bison to state titles in 2002 and 2004. "They're peaking. It's a one-and-done deal and you play your best or you go home. They understand that. It all boils down to what you do this game. The regular season just fine-tunes you.''
Buffalo has already defeated Wahama twice this season (11-0 and 11-2) in late March and early April.
"They know Wahama's ready for us,'' Moore said of his players' attitude. "The scores didn't indicate the type of games [they were]. They were right in there until the fourth or fifth inning in both games.''
Buffalo leans heavily on junior Chelsey Parkins, who has posted a 14-1 record with a 0.94 earned run average and 139 strikeouts in 89 innings. She also carries a potent bat, hitting .551 with 16 doubles, seven triples, 48 RBIs and 28 stolen bases.
St. Albans will need the savvy from its senior battery of pitcher Ali Haynes and catcher Mariah Caudill when it takes on Point Pleasant for the first time this season in an unfamiliar setting. Haynes and Caudill have been a part of 106 wins and won a state championship as freshmen.
"Don't know exactly what we'll be getting into,'' said SA coach Greg Garber. "[Point Pleasant has] to be pretty good since they split with Chapmanville [and] they only lost to John Marshall 3-2, and John Marshall is defending state champs.
"My seniors are my two leaders and they've seen just about every situation in softball. I don't think anything will bother them and hopefully they can transpose that confidence and calmness to the rest of the team.''
Hurricane looks to take the next step under fifth-year coach Josh Caldwell as it tangles with perennial powerhouse Cabell Midland for the fourth time this season. The Redskins won their first sectional in recent memory over No. 4 Lincoln County.
"That was good for our confidence no doubt, accomplishing something we haven't in the last few years,'' said Caldwell, whose squad set a school record for wins for a second straight year. "We don't want to stop there, either. I think our team is not lacking confidence.''
Hurricane took a wild 15-13 win over Midland then lost to the Knights 9-8 on Morgan Kelly's grand slam in the semifinals of the Best of the Best Classic and 12-2 in the Mountain State Athletic Conference championship matchup after Midland scored eight runs in the top of the first behind 10 straight two-out hits.
"There's little room for error for both teams,'' Caldwell said. "We can't give [Midland] three or four runs. You're not going to shut out a team like that. We've got to limit our mistakes, then find ways to put runs on our own side. Whoever's big players come up the biggest will come through with the win.''
South Charleston has already beaten Ripley twice - 1-0 during the regular season and 3-1 in the consolation game of the MSAC tournament. Black Eagles pitcher Allie Burdette fanned 14 in the first meeting then whiffed 13, including the 1,000th of her four-year career, in the second.
Hoover and Sissonville, Cardinal Conference foes and rivals, tangle for the third time this season. The Huskies took both games, but only by 3-2 and 2-1 scores, getting the winning run in the bottom of the seventh in both games.
The other two defending state titlists are also still alive with AAA champ John Marshall (29-3) playing at University (18-13) in Region 1 and AA winner Wayne (25-6) at Chapmanville (15-16) in Region 4. John Marshall owns a pair of wins over University (10-0 and 19-7) while Wayne has also been victorious twice over Chapmanville (9-0 and 2-1).
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.