Prep softball: Redskins plagued by errors in loss to Panthers
HURRICANE, W.Va. -- Suddenly, the Hurricane Redskins are having trouble closing a deal.
Needing a win to eliminate Class AAA Region 4, Section 2 rival Lincoln County on Wednesday, the Redskins committed five errors that led to four unearned runs in a 7-5 loss that forced a deciding Game 3 of the series.
"Yesterday they kind of jumped on us, and we made some critical errors," Lincoln County Coach Rod Hoover said, referring to the Panthers' 9-2 loss to Hurricane in Tuesday's Game 1.
"Today, we made the plays. That makes all the difference, when you can come out and execute and play your game."
A week ago, the Redskins made seven errors on their home field in losing the Mountain State Athletic Conference championship game to Cabell Midland 12-2 in five innings. Coach Josh Caldwell reminded his team quite emphatically after Wednesday's loss that it is dangerously close to elimination, and his players would see their season end sooner than later if today's execution is not better.
Equally damaging to the Redskins' effort Wednesday, however, was the effectiveness of Lincoln County junior pitcher Brooke West. The former All-State selection kept the top third of the Hurricane batting order off base much of the game, keeping Hurricane from maximizing the production of its big hitters. Leadoff hitter Madison Casto, No. 2 hitter Nicole Pierson and No. 3 Cassi Sargent were a combined 0-for-11.
The same three hitters were a combined 129-for-293 (.440) entering this week.
"It was real important to keep those top three hitters off base," West said. "Casto is a big out for us. I'm just glad our defense worked today and we were able to make some outs."
West and the Panthers never trailed. After Lincoln County got out to a 1-0 lead in the second inning, Hurricane pitcher Courtney Rogers reached on a fluke infield single that popped up and hit the ground in no-man's land between the pitching circle and first base.
Linzie Reynolds followed her by smashing a line drive that appeared destined for the left-center field gap, but Panthers freshman shortstop Sarah Barrett snagged the ball out of the air in a leap, then recovered to double up courtesy runner Kaylee Wooten at first.
"She made an amazing play. She saved my life today," West said of Barrett's catch. "We just played really good defense today."
It didn't take long for the defensive gem to translate into an offensive spark.
Senior center fielder Morgan Hutchison - the school's all-time hits leader - led off the top of the third with an inside-the-park home run down the left-field line.
A diving attempt at a catch by Hurricane junior Addie Fullen came up empty, allowing the speedy Hutchison to motor around the bases with ease as the ball rolled to the fence.
Barrett then reached on an error and soon scored when Amy Parsons ripped a double down the right-field line. By the end of the inning Rogers and Hurricane trailed 4-0.
Hurricane came back to tie the game in the fourth, when Rogers smacked her Kanawha Valley-leading ninth home run of the season to left, scoring herself and Sargent, who had walked to lead off the inning. An RBI double by Fullen and a run-scoring single from Emily Davis made it 4-4, but West never gave up the lead.
When she returned to the circle in the fifth with a fresh, 6-4, advantage thanks to a pair of unearned runs, it was like she had hit a reset button.
"I'm just a mellow person. I know my defense will back me up, and we have some big sticks," West said.
Hurricane never recovered and the stage is set for a winner-take-all finale at 6 p.m. today in Hurricane.
Caldwell said his team must be aggressive and successful at the top of the order for it to reach regional play.
"We've got to get people on base for our big hitters," he said. "With our offense, three earned runs, we should be able to outscore them.
"It is what it is. We were sloppy tonight. They were a little sloppy last night. Whoever makes the fewest mistakes tomorrow probably wins."
Hutchison was 3-for-3 for Lincoln County and had two RBI while Barrett went 2-for-4. Rogers, the area's leading hitter among Class AAA schools, was 3-for-3.
Contact Preps Editor Derek Taylor at email@example.com or 304-348-5170. Follow him on Twitter @ItsreallyDT.