Prep softball: Hurricane eliminates Lincoln County
The meeting between Lincoln County and Hurricane on Thursday night had the feel of a State Tournament championship game.
Unfortunately for both the state-ranked Panthers and Redskins, it was just the third and deciding sectional title tilt.
No. 3 Hurricane trailed by two in the sixth inning, but scored the next 10 runs to rally for a 13-6 victory at home over No. 4 Lincoln County in the Class AAA Region 4, Section 3 championship.
With the victory, the Redskins win their first sectional title in the five seasons under Coach Josh Caldwell. Things don't get any easier, though, with No. 2 Cabell Midland up next for Hurricane (28-6) in the Region 4 semifinals next Thursday.
"It goes from easy to easier," said Caldwell with laugh. "That's sarcasm. We get Midland here next Thursday. Our biggest goal of the year was to win this (sectional). That was a huge step for us tonight."
Caldwell was thankful to be advancing in what he called the toughest section and region in the state with three of the top four teams in Class AAA in Midland, Hurricane, and Lincoln County (23-8).
"It's a crying shame and it sucks that anybody has to lose in this sectional, but I'm sure grateful to be advancing," he said. "There is no sectional in the state that anybody has to go through like this.
"It's unreal. It's my fifth year here and we have been on the other end every year. We have had some good teams, too. That's a great team over there."
Lincoln County Coach Rod Hoover agreed on the toughness of the section.
"It's a shame that the state doesn't find a way to take more teams to the State Tournament and have a better tournament," he said. "It's harder to get to the State Tournament than win it when you're in Region 4.
"It's like this every year. Whoever comes out of Region 4, typically is the favorite in the state.
"Hat's off of Hurricane, though. They are a great team but I will take my team into battle any day. There has to a winner and a loser."
Hurricane looked to be in trouble, trailing 5-3 in the sixth inning when left fielder Addie Fullen hit a two-run home run over the left-field fence with two outs to tie the game and give the Redskins some much-needed momentum.
"I don't ever want to think 'Let's hit a home run here,' but I was standing there thinking I would do anything for Addie to hit a home run," Caldwell said. "It was huge to tie it up and spark us."
With the game still tied in the seventh, the Redskins exploded for eight runs to seize control, sending 12 batters to the plate and collecting eight hits.
The Panthers aided with three errors in the frame.
Freshman Maddie Hebb started the inning with a triple and Amber Null followed with what proved to be the game-winner with a sacrifice fly to left field. After that, the floodgates opened for Hurricane.
Courtney Rogers had a three-run blast, while Fullen had a RBI single, Emily Davis doubled in a run and Hebb took advantage of her second trip up to the plate in the inning with an RBI single.
Hebb led the Hurricane attack, going 4-for-4, missing a triple to hit for the cycle. She drove in three runs, started the decisive eight-run seventh inning and hit a two-run home run.
"I'm not going to complain, I'm very proud with that," Hebb said. "I'm so excited. This has always been my dream. The whole game was so nerve-wracking. You didn't want to make an error and just wanted to hit the ball."
Fullen had a pair of hits and drove in three runs to aid the Hurricane offense, Rogers drove in three runs and Linzie Reynolds collected three hits as well. The Redskins pounded out 14 hits, including three homers.
For Lincoln County, Brooke West, Sarah Barnett, Faith Huffman and Sarah Pennington all had two hits. The Panthers had 11 hits on the game.
Buffalo 15, Charleston Catholic 0 - Chelsea Parkins came one out away from a perfect game in the Class A Region 4, Section 4 championship in pitching the Bison (29-4) past the Irish (19-11).
Parkins had faced the minimum number of batters through 4 2/3 innings until walking Talia Corbett with two outs in the fifth to spoil her perfect game. She finished with 12 strikeouts.
Parkins also had four hits and five RBI and Ali Burdette was 3-for-3 with a double, home run and five RBI for Buffalo, which visits Wahama in the Region 4 semifinal on Thursday.