Prep softball: Hurricane advances to MSAC title game
HURRICANE - Sophomore pitcher and power hitter Courtney Rogers is unquestionably the engine that drives the softball success for Hurricane High School.
When it comes to manufacturing runs in tight ball games, frequently the responsibility falls to players like leadoff hitter Madison Casto.
Casto is the Little Engine that Could for the Redskins, and again Tuesday night showed why, stealing a pair of bases, advancing once on a sacrifice and again on a passed ball and scoring two runs in Hurricane's 5-1 win over South Charleston in the Mountain State Athletic Conference semifinals at Hurricane High.
"With a good pitcher like her we have to get the bat on the ball, and we have to execute little things like bunts and get them down just to move base-runners around," Casto said, referencing SC ace Alli Burdette, who is approaching her 1,000th career strikeout and fanned six in the loss.
Casto was hitting .473 as the week began, and has been primarily known for her skills as a second baseman. Tuesday, she followed Rogers' second-inning home run with the Redskins' second and third runs, providing the hard-throwing Rogers (15-1) with enough offense to get Hurricane to its second consecutive MSAC title game.
The Redskins won their first conference title in 2012 by beating St. Albans. Tonight, the will face perennial conference power Cabell Midland for a chance to make it two in a row.
With a 2-0 lead in the fifth inning, Casto led off with a single before stealing second and advancing to third on Nicole Pierson's sacrifice. Cassi Sargent singled to right field to score Casto, and Sargent took second as the ball was mishandled before being returned to the infield.
Rogers followed with a long single that hit the center-field wall, and after a Linzie Reynolds groundout, Addie Fullen's fly ball to left field was dropped, allowing the Redskins' third run of the inning to score.
"We felt like if we limited our strikeouts, put the ball in play, bunt and execute we can get on the board," Hurricane Coach Josh Caldwell said. "It was a grind, it wasn't a huge inning. That's what you've got to do against really good pitchers."
Meanwhile, the SC offense never solved Rogers. She struck out 10, and at one point retired 13 in a row from the first through the fifth innings. The Black Eagles (16-9) finally got on the board in the sixth, when Meredith Cain singled then scored after Burdette's routine fly ball was dropped by Pierson in center with two outs.
Pierson made up for the gaffe an inning later. With two on and one out, SC pinch hitter Bailey Tennant tattooed a pitch to center. Pierson turned and sprinted toward the fence, turning enough to snag the ball out of the air for a harmless out.
One batter later, Rogers got her 10th strikeout and a bid to the title game.
"We have to come out and play good defense," Casto said. "If we make an error, we have to pick each other up to do better."
Hurricane freshman Maddie Hebb was 3-for-3 in the win and made several solid stops at first base, including a snag on a pop fly by SC leadoff hitter Kaylie Stanley in foul ground.
South Charleston will play Ripley in the MSAC third-place game at 5:30 p.m. today at Hurricane, with the title game scheduled to begin 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first game.
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Cabell Midland (23-4) got doubles from Morgan Kelley and Savannah Eplin and not much offense otherwise, but thanks to five Vikings errors spread across four innings they will meet the winner of Monday's late game between top-seeded Hurricane and No. 4 seed South Charleston.
While Ripley's defense struggled, Midland's was sterling, especially the showing put on by third baseman Morgan Zerkle. The senior made three highlight-reel plays that led to improbable outs, including one in which she made a catch in foul ground by diving headfirst toward the cement backstop.
Midland's Jenna Marsh got the win, while Abbie Tolbert came on in relief to record the save.
Ripley's Dusti Fisher doubled in the loss, providing the Vikings (16-5) with their only extra-base hit.
Contact Preps Editor Derek Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5170. Follow him on Twitter @ItsreallyDT