By NICK BROCKMAN
FOR THE DAILY MAIL
HURRICANE, W.Va – Three times this season, the hits, pitching and defense fell in favor of the Hurricane softball team when playing rival Cabell Midland, but the fourth contest belonged to the Knights on Thursday night.
After losing three times to Hurricane, including a 13-1 defeat on April 21, Midland retaliated with a 6-3 victory in the Mountain State Athletic Conference semifinals, as the Knights advance to face Spring Valley in the MSAC Championship 7 p.m. today. With the loss, Hurricane will face Ripley in the consolation game 5 p.m. today.
“We see each other a lot,” Midland coach Jeanne Lunsford said of the many matchups with Hurricane this year. “(We’re) playing a good ball club, and we played a good game – two good ball clubs right here, and that’s what kind of games you get when you get into this type of tournament play.
“I’m very proud of the girls. We hadn’t played since our last meeting with them, and that didn’t turn out very well for us. I’m just happy these girls bounced back, let that game go and play their game.”
The Knights struck for three runs in the third inning to take a 3-0 lead on back-to-back doubles by Mandi King and Erin Kaplan. Small ball played a key role in the inning with moving runners along via sacrifice and effective outs.
Midland plated its fourth run when King later executed a safety squeeze in the fifth inning.
“I think this is the time you want to be doing that,” Lunsford said of the team’s strategy. “You want to be doing the little things right: executing your bunts, getting things done that way, making defensive plays and having good pitching this time of the year is key.”
Midland scored twice more in the fifth, after King’s bunt, to take a commanding 6-0 lead, before Hurricane scored single runs in each of its final three at-bats.
The Redskins produced nine hits on the evening, but left 12 runners on base. Whether missing scoring opportunities or defensive miscues, Hurricane coach Josh Caldwell said the loss was a frustrating one for the Class AAA defending state champions.
“We didn’t play well, no doubt about it,” he said. “Too many mistakes – defensively, offensively, base running was atrocious. We didn’t play well.”
The Knights knocked out Redskins starting pitcher Courtney Rogers in the fifth inning.
While Rogers missed her usual form, Midland’s No. 1 Jenna Marsh limited Hurricane’s opportunities.
“Their big hitters, we tried to work them outside and up a lot, try to produce a lot of pop-ups, even groundouts,” Marsh said. “We just didn’t want far pop-ups. We wanted the ones that went straight up, because sometimes they tend to get under the ball.”
In the first semifinal game, third-seeded Ripley took a 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth inning, but the advantage was short-lived, as No. 2 seed Spring Valley scored twice in the bottom half of the fourth, before adding three runs in each of the fifth and sixth innings. Pitcher McKenzie Acker earned the win by limiting the Vikings to one run on four hits across six innings.
Timberwolves hitter Haley Caldwell paced Spring Valley with a home run, double and three RBI. Taylor Brumfield and Brooke Jackson each finished with three hits.