Those familiar with the HBO show Game of Thrones are likely well acquainted with the question, “You don’t want to wake the dragon, do you?”
After what transpired in St. Albans on Wednesday night, there are more than a few who believe the Mountain State Athletic Conference softball community could soon find out what happens when one does.
Senior Madi Marshall threw five innings of shutout relief after sophomore Katie Holstein kept defending Class AAA state champion Hurricane off the board in the first two innings, and sophomore shortstop Madi Chandler came off the bench to go 2 for 2 with what proved to be the game-winning RBI as Red Dragons got a stunning 2-0 win.
“I’m emotional,” St. Albans first-year coach Bradley Brown said. “I knew the girls had it in them all year long. I’ve been telling them from Day 1 how good that they are and how good they can be if they choose to work hard and play hard and play together as a team.”
The victory ended the Redskins’ winning streak that stretched back to the 2013 Class AAA Region 4, Section 3 tournament, and a five-game win streak over their rival softball power that began in 2012. Lincoln County was the last team to beat Hurricane, and the Redskins had won 18 in a row since last year.
Brown employed a useful bit of strategy to put his team in position to turn around its early season fortunes. Starting Holstein, he allowed Marshall to come on in relief for the first time this year. More importantly, Holstein was able to get through the powerful Hurricane lineup without yielding a run.
Just one-half inning after Marshall held the Redskins at bay, Chandler broke through with an RBI single off Hurricane starter Emily Davis to give St. Albans all the offense it ended up needing.
Chandler, who missed St. Albans’ loss to Cabell Midland on Monday because she was sick, said her first hit was actually a happy accident. She acknowledged that she missed a bunt signal before her single scored No. 9 hitter Jocelyn Amburgy.
“It was pretty much confidence,” Chandler said in explaining how the team managed to make the early run stand.
It was then that Chandler evoked a phrase commonly used by former SA coach Greg Garber.
“We have a saying, ‘Hold the rope,’ and that’s what we were doing it,” Chandler said. “We were just holding on.”
As Marshall settled in to her role as reliever, the SA (8-10) defense gelled around her. The Dragons turned a pair of key double plays to squelch Hurricane (12-1) scoring threats, and Chandler had seven assists at shortstop.
As a result of SA’s timely defense and the aforementioned confidence that almost visibly developed through the course of the game, Hurricane never did get its offense in gear. Senior All-State outfielder Addie Fullen was 2 for 2 and sophomore first baseman Maddie Hebb doubled, but 2013 state Player of the Year Courtney Rogers was 1 for 3 with an infield single. Her courtesy runner, Kaylee Wooten, was doubled up on a 5-3-6 double play that ended the top of the fourth inning.
“We’ve had this happen in four or five games,” Hurricane coach Josh Caldwell said about a lack of energy he perceived in his team.
“Again, not to take anything away from St. Albans but sometimes I think our team just thinks they can show up and you can’t do that,” Caldwell said. “We’ve told them many times, and St. Albans is definitely good enough to beat you and they did.”
A four-year starter who has led St. Albans in hitting each of the last two seasons, Marshall said that the type of play required to get such a win was long overdue by her and her teammates.
“We’ve been kind of slacking on the internal self-esteem part. We all had to believe, and we had to get our confidence up,” Marshall said. “We were all riling each other up and picking each other up. It mattered that we held the rope and picked each other up.
“I sound like Greg,” Marshall said through a laugh. “We kept them on their toes, though, and that’s what you’ve got to do with good teams.”
Marshall was 2 for 3 with a sixth-inning double, and scored an insurance run that inning when Haili McCown grounded out to second base.
Contact Preps Editor Derek Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5170. Follow him on Twitter @ItsreallyDT.