BUFFALO — Sure, Hurricane experienced pressure last season in its run to the school’s first state championship.
That pales in comparison, though, to what the Redskins face now as opponents gear up for them night-in and night-out with their best efforts when the defending titlists roll into town. Hurricane, which has been No. 1 all season in the Class AAA state rankings, is learning quickly there is no room for complacency and that it must be on its toes at all times.
Hurricane received a rousing wake-up call Wednesday in suffering its first setback after winning its first 12, a 2-0 shutout by St. Albans.
The Redskins got that bad taste out of their mouths quickly Friday with a pair of mercy-rule victories during pool play in the Class AAA division of the Best of the Best Softball Classic. Hurricane pounded Parkersburg South 8-0 in five innings then shelled Ripley 12-0 in three.
“We talked about it all year, that people are going to get up for us,’’ said Hurricane coach Josh Caldwell. “If we come out flat, we’re going to get beat by those teams.
“There are going to be times when we don’t hit the ball and don’t score 10 runs, so we’ve go to bounce back from it and we did today. [The loss] was not indicative at all of how we’ve played for the most part this year, so we wanted to hit the ball and play with a little bit of energy and enthusiasm.’’
Hurricane, No. 4 Cabell Midland, No. 6 Lincoln County and No. 2 Logan went undefeated Friday with 2-0 records. No. 2 Buffalo, Chapmanville, Scott and No. 3 Sissonville were each 2-0 in Class AA-A after Thursday’s pool play games. The Best of the Best continues at 10 a.m. today with the final pool play game in Class AAA and AA-A. The top four teams in each division advance to the semifinals at 4 p.m., with the championship tilts set for 6. (See Page 2B for results and schedule.)
Courtney Rogers fired a three-hit shutout and drilled a three-run home run in the five-run fourth that put Hurricane in the driver’s seat with a 6-0 advantage against South. Cassi Sargent sent a shot off the top of the left-field fence — just missing a round-tripper — for a run-scoring double in the bottom of the fifth to invoke the mercy rule. Hurricane also turned two double plays after the Patriots put runners on second base each time.
In the matchup with Ripley, Emily Davis tossed a three-hit shutout and launched two round-trippers and knocked in three runs for the Redskins, while Rogers went 3 for 3 with a homer and five RBIs. Rogers, the regining state player of the year, now has eight homers and 41 RBIs.
The Redskins (14-1) combined for 26 hits in the two wins — 12 and 14, respectively — after having only five in the loss to SA. Hurricane only committed one error in the two games.
“I think we played great defensively and we hit the ball,’’ said Sargent, who went 3 for 4 with a double, two runs scored and two RBIs against South. “We came back from that loss hard, which is a good thing. I think we have a big target on our back this season. We’ve kept it together. We’ve just gotta play our game and hit the ball.’’
Hurricane had flashbacks to the SA debacle when it couldn’t get any clutch hits through the first three innings Friday versus South, leaving six runners stranded and only producing one run.
The Redskins seemed to get their mojo back in the top of the third after turning an unusual double play that started out with 1-3-6-4-2 putout in a scoreless game as South had a runner on second with one out. After executing the twin-killing, the Redskins ran off the field in jubilation.
Hurricane then found its stroke in the fourth, plating five runs for a 6-0 lead. Sargent started the rally with an RBI single, then Addie Fullen came through, driving in a run on a fielder’s choice. Rogers crushed a 1-1 pitch over the left-field fence after just getting under the ball and missing a round-tripper in the first. Madi Casto went 2 for 4 for the Redskins and Maddie Hebb laced two hits.
The Redskins carried over the hot sticks to the Ripley game, scoring five runs in the first and five in the third. Hebb added three hits.
Sargent said the Redskins took their first loss as motivation.
“Everyone was really mad,’’ she said. “I think we kind of needed that to set us back in that mindset. We need to stay humble. You got to take it game by game. You can’t underestimate your opponent.’’
“We come out flat and we’ve done that a few times this year,’’ Caldwell added. “That’s the big thing, us coming prepared and ready to play every game.’’
Sargent said something had been missing from this year’s team, and the Redskins found it this week.
“It brought us together,’’ she said of the setback to SA. “From last year to this year, our team bonding ... we just need to play together more like we did last year in how we went to states.
“We were more focused and into it with each other. This year we kind of lost that. We weren’t into that [loss] at all. We were kind of separated. We’ve got it now.’’
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4811.