Hurricane storms to softball title
VIENNA, W.Va. - Nicole Pierson remembers the lean days during her four years at Hurricane.
That's why the Redskins' first Class AAA state championship meant so much to so many at the Putnam County school.
Sophomore Courtney Rogers fired a five-hit shutout as Hurricane completed a three-game sweep at the double-elimination state tournament with a 5-0 decision over Wheeling Park Thursday. A crowd of several hundred, mostly clad in Hurricane red, ringed Field 3 at Jackson Park.
"This means everything to me,'' said Pierson, who went 2 for 3 and scored a run. "I've worked so hard my four years to get where we are now. Now that it's here I can't believe it's true. I'm so happy I'm trying to keep from crying.''
Hurricane won both of its games Wednesday, edging Park 2-1 and defeating Jefferson 11-4. Park, which upset No. 1 and defending state champion John Marshall in the Region 1 final, needed to hang two losses on the Redskins on Thursday to claim the title.
That was going to be difficult the way the Redskins were playing. Hurricane took the lead for good at 1-0 on sophomore Cassi Sargent's two-out, run-scoring triple. Rogers followed with another RBI single as Hurricane went ahead 2-0.
That was all the run support Rogers needed as she consistently hit her spots with her pitches, holding the Patriots to five singles. She struck out four and walked two.
Hurricane also turned in some nifty defensive plays, including two double plays, and did not commit an error.
"I think we played one of our best games of the season,'' said Rogers. "I knew I had to hit my spots and our defense would do the rest and we'd hit the ball. Since we made it [to states] we knew we had to win.''
Trailing 2-0 in the top of the fifth, Park had a runner on third with one out. Rogers, though, got the next batter on a fly ball to center that was too shallow to score the run and ended the threat with a strikeout.
Hurricane put some distance between Park in the bottom half of the fifth as Sargent and Rogers each doubled in a run for a 4-0 advantage. The Redskins added a run in the bottom of the sixth on an error.
The Patriots had runners on first and second with none out in the top of the seventh, but the Redskins turned their second double play as first baseman Maddie Hebb caught a liner then stepped on the bag. Hebb also caught a foul ball with her glove over the fence in the sixth.
After Park sophomore Morgan Karnell singled to put runners at first and third with two outs, Rogers fanned Patriots senior Kelly Albers swinging on a 2-2 count to end it.
Hurricane senior catcher Linzie Reynolds threw off her glove and mask and met Rogers halfway between the circle and home plate then jumped into her arms as both fell to the ground. The rest of the players from the field and dugout piled on as the celebration began in earnest. Some of the Redskins' players doused fifth-year coach Josh Caldwell, who has had quite a spring with the birth of his daughter, with ice water.
Hurricane's Sargent finished with a double, triple and two RBIs while Rogers went 2 for 4 with a double and two RBIs. Hebb also collected two hits, including a double, for the Redskins. Reynolds, Rogers, Sargent and sophomore Madi Casto were all-tournament selections.
Hurricane bashed its way to an 11-4 victory over Jefferson Wednesday behind freshman No. 9 hitter Amber Null's 2-for-3 effort with a double and three RBIs. In the first game earlier Wednesday, Null singled in the winning run in the bottom of the seventh as the Redskins won their first tournament game in school history with a 2-1 victory Park.
Pierson, Reynolds, Haley Byrd and fellow seniors Courtney Lindmark, Breanna Copley and Kirstyn Bess endured some tough times before the program began rolling.
"It was pretty rough,'' said Pierson. "It was bumpy at some points. We won games and lost games together. We knew we had to work hard in the offseason and get better. I think this year our team clicks better. We just really came together as a team. We just work well together.''
The Redskins (33-6), who ended the year on a six-game winning streak, won 30 games for the first time, played in their first regional and finished third in the state sportswriters' poll, which was their highest mark in school history.
Hurricane navigated a tough road just to reach states. The Redskins got past No. 4 Lincoln County in three games for their first sectional title in some time, edged No. 2 Cabell Midland 6-5 in the regional semifinal then downed No. 8 St. Albans 2-0 in the regional final, winning for the first time this season when scoring two or fewer runs.
"It's one of the best group of kids I've been around,'' Caldwell said. "All the teams here were really good, but I wouldn't trade a Lincoln County, Cabell Midland or St. Albans [for them].
"I felt like once we got through that sectional to me there wasn't that much pressure. It was a bit of confidence, the players knowing they could do it. When we got [to the state tournament] it just seemed like a business trip. [Our players] executed.''
No. 6 Park (22-7) turned in quite a run after falling to Hurricane in Wednesday's opening game. The Patriots faced elimination twice, beating No. 10 Ripley 8-3 Wednesday and unranked Jefferson 5-3 earlier Thursday.
"I'm proud of the girls,'' said Park coach Dee Davis. "Every girl gave effort. We weren't even supposed to be at states and here we are in the championship game. We gave it a good run. They gave it their best.''
Junior Carly Greer surrendered five runs (four earned) with one strikeout and one walk for Park. Freshman Colleen Tracy went 2 for 3. Greer, junior Ashleigh Sidon and sophomore Skylar Carrington were all-tournament picks.
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or304-348-4811.