Prep softball: Lincoln County's West gets back into win column
SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The long and frustrating wait is over for Brooke West.
The Lincoln County junior pitcher, who was an All-State pick as a freshman in helping lead the Panthers to the 2011 Class AAA softball state championship, got her first win in more than 11 months Tuesday, beating South Charleston 6-3.
"It's just amazing to get back. I missed it so much," said West, who struck out 14 in improving to 1-1 on the season for the Panthers (2-1).
"The back injury that I had really put me down, but I kept going. I just love the team and I love to play ball."
West disappeared from the Lincoln County lineup after a 4-3 loss to Cabell Midland in the Best of the Best Tournament at Midland on April 16, 2012. West's doctors who treated her for scoliosis discovered she had no fluid around a disc in her lower back.
"I had fluid coming off it but didn't have any fluid around another. It just affects me," she said.
West missed the Mountain State Athletic Conference semifinals last year when the team lost to St. Albans. Lincoln County got past Hurricane in sectional play without its ace but fell to Cabell Midland in the Region 4 semifinals, ending the Panthers' run as champs.
The soft-spoken junior made her return to the circle Saturday, when Lincoln County took on defending Class AAA state champion John Marshall. She picked up a hard-luck loss after pitching nine innings.
Lincoln County came back that day to beat defending Class AA state champ Wayne, but West did not pitch against the Pioneers.
"I'm OK now," she said. "You've just got to be careful how you use me, I guess you'd say. I've got to go easy. I'm just glad to get back to pitching."
It was West's first win since beating East Fairmont on April 14, 2012.
She showed little stress or strain Tuesday. West out-dueled South Charleston senior All-State pitcher Alli Burdette, and helped her own cause with a two-run double that helped put Lincoln County ahead for good during a three-run fifth inning.
The hard-throwing Burdette struck out 12 but -- as was often the case during her junior year in which she was named Kanawha Valley Player of the Year -- did not get much help from her defense. The Black Eagles (2-1) committed a pair of errors but also committed numerous mental mistakes in the field that allowed routine plays to become Panther hits.
Burdette, who finished the 2012 season with a 0.78 ERA, gave up five earned runs.
"You can't give this team opportunities," South Charleston coach Bob Catlett said. "We did that several times today. It was tough playing in the wind today, but (Lincoln County was) in the same boat that we are, and I think our inexperience showed a little bit."
South Charleston, which starts four freshman infielders, took a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning when center fielder Meredith Cain drove an RBI double to left-center field then later scored on an error.
Lincoln County answered quickly however. In the top of the fifth, Panther freshman shortstop Sarah Barrett hit a pop-up that landed just behind the glove of SC freshman shortstop Madison Pauley in shallow left field. Center fielder Morgan Hutchison followed with an infield single before West came to the plate and drove a Burdette pitch into the left-center field power alley.
West scored on a sacrifice fly by Brandi Isaacs to cap the three-run inning.
"That's what we expect, for our girls to show a little bit of heart and step up when somebody takes a lead. We've got to be able to come right back," Lincoln County coach Rod Hoover said.
Barrett was 2-for-4 with a double for Lincoln County while Hutchison was 2-for-3.
Contact Preps Editor Derek Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5170. Follow him on Twitter @ItsreallyDT