Resilient Redskins advance
HURRICANE, W.Va. - Hurricane has advanced further than any team in the program's history and it's not about to let up now.
The Redskins showed resiliency in persevering through a 6-5 victory over Cabell Midland Thursday evening in the Class AAA Region 4 semifinals. A crowd of about 600 ringed the field at Hurricane High School in the matchup of state-ranked teams.
Hurricane (29-6), No. 3 in the final state sportswriters' poll, set a school record for wins for a second consecutive season and hosts No. 8 St. Albans (28-4) next Thursday in the Region 4 final, with the winner advancing to the state tournament.
The Red Dragons, who have lost twice to the Redskins (9-0 and 13-0), shut out Point Pleasant 6-0 in the other semifinal.
Hurricane overcame a 3-0 deficit in the top of the first Thursday, committed four errors and weathered a tenuous top of the seventh as Midland put the tying and winning runs on base.
The Redskins defeated Midland 15-13 in their first regular-season meeting, but the Knights won 9-8 in the semifinals of the Best of the Best Softball Classic and 12-2 in the Mountain State Athletic Conference championship game.
"They came out a little nervous and a little tight, but what can you say, they came back and made the plays when they had to,'' said Hurricane fifth-year coach Josh Caldwell.
"This team is the closest and the best team as far as chemistry that I've ever been around. They don't want to quit. They don't want it to be their last day whether it's tonight or next week. They enjoy being together and they enjoy the experience.''
The Redskins were cruising along with a 6-3 lead until the Knights rallied in the seventh.
Jordan Colliflower laced a one-out run-scoring single through the infield and Savannah Eplin knocked in another on a fielder's choice as Midland closed within 6-5. Hurricane center fielder Nicole Pierson, though, made a game-changing play on Eplin's sharply hit ball with the bases loaded when she fired to third baseman Emily Davis to get the force for the second out.
The No. 2 Knights (27-6) still had runners at first and second, but Redskins pitcher Courtney Rogers retired Midland's Erin Kaplan on a popout to second baseman Madi Casto to touch off a wild celebration near home plate.
"We just knew we had to make up for the errors,'' said Davis. "In the first when we got down, we got upset, then we picked each other up and we were able to get through it. Everybody always come through when we need them.''
"We just started too late,'' said Midland coach Jeanne Lunsford. "Courtney adjusted to our weaknesses. She just didn't keep throwing the same thing. Her pitches were working well and jamming us. We just couldn't get good, solid hits.''
Midland scored three unearned runs in the first courtesy of two Hurricane errors to seize the momentum. That was reminiscent of the last meeting in the MSAC title game, when the Knights plated eight runs in the top of the first behind 10 straight two-out hits.
Rogers' solo home run, her 11th of the season, in the bottom of the second brought the Redskins to life as they plated six runs on eight hits in the second and third combined for a 6-3 advantage.
After Rogers' blast, freshman Amber Null, the No. 9 hitter, added a fielder's choice RBI as the Redskins closed within 3-2. Then in the third, No. 7 batter Davis, a sophomore, had a clutch two-out two-run single to give Hurricane the lead for good at 4-3 and Hebb, the freshman No. 8 hitter, added a two-run double to go ahead 6-3. Hurricane's last three hitters in the lineup went a combined 4 for 9 with a double and five RBIs.
"Whenever runners were on base, we all came through,'' said Rogers.
Davis finished 2 for 3 with a run and two RBIs and Pierson rapped out three hits and Rogers added two. Rogers scattered 10 hits, allowing five runs (two earned).
The Redskins knocked out Knights starter Kyla Shull, who held Hurricane in check during the MSAC title game, in the third inning. Shull surrendered six earned runs on seven hits. Midland reliever Jenny Marsh gave her team a lift, keeping the Redskins scoreless over the last 31/3 innings and allowing just four hits.
Morgan Zerkle, Midland's leadoff hitter, went 3 for 3 while Kaplan also pounded out three hits, including a triple, and knocked in a run and Colliflower legged out two hits with an RBI. The Knights' Morgan Kelley also produced a run.
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.