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Prep softball: Hurricane has its eyes, mind on St. Albans

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Stifling excitement is one of the most difficult things to do for a high school team that is historically unfamiliar with success.

Hurricane's softball team will play for a regional championship and a State Tournament berth for the first time in school history at 6 p.m. Thursday when the Redskins (29-6) play host to traditional power St. Albans (28-4), a team Hurricane has beaten twice this season.

When the Redskins were leaving the field after a 6-5 win over Cabell Midland in the Region 4 semifinals last week, the public address system at the field blared the 1977 Queen classic "We Are the Champions," a tune overly familiar to every sports fan.

Hurricane players aren't buying into the notion that they've accomplished anything. Sophomore third baseman Emily Davis, whose two-run double in the third inning of the regional semi gave the Redskins the lead for good Thursday, spoke of their upcoming game with a tone that was the equivalent of a record needle being yanked off the turntable.

"I know we beat them twice this year, but we've still got to play them like any other team we play," Davis said of the Red Dragons. "You never know what they're gonna bring. They've been here before."

Hurricane beat St. Albans 9-0 at home April 9, then 13-0 at St. Albans on April 18. Still, it will be ninth career postseason start at the regional level or higher for SA seniors Ali Haynes and Mariah Caudill, and the first regional final appearance for any player in a Hurricane uniform.

The only change for either team since their last meeting is in St. Albans' outfield. There, speedy freshman Katie Holstein has taken over in center field, and the team is 9-0 since her insertion into the lineup.

"St. Albans has a team that can come here and win next week," Hurricane Coach Josh Caldwell said. "They've got the same ticket to punch that we do.

"We can't come out and say 'Oh, we beat them twice.' A few things happen and it's a tight game ... we can't let that happen. So, we'll get with our seniors and we'll coach 'em up and make sure that doesn't happen."

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IT WAS with no small amount of irony that Ripley's Chelsey Hager struck out 22 South Charleston batters in leading the Vikings (22-10) to a 4-1 win in 11 innings in a Class AAA Region 3 semifinal last Thursday at South Charleston (20-10).

The loss served as the final high school game for SC All-State pitcher Alli Burdette. An Elon University signee, the hard-throwing Burdette struck out 15 in the loss.

Burdette finished the season with 326 strikeouts, giving her 1,051 for her career. The 2012 Kanawha Valley Player of the Year had a 1.04 earned run average in her four years as a starter.

Ripley will play host to Shady Spring (20-2) on Thursday for the Region 3 championship.

* * *

SISSONVILLE COACH Nikki Gross told the Daily Mail on Friday that the one-game suspension imposed on her by first-year Sissonville High School Principal Ron Reedy was not because she broke rules established by the Secondary School Activities Commission. Gross said that the suspension, which kept her from attending the Indians' 7-3 win over Class AA No. 2 Herbert Hoover was Reedy's decision.

Kanawha County principals were given the discretion whether to allow their school teams to participate in games last week when county students took the Westest.

Sissonville played a previously unscheduled game against Ripley last Wednesday. The Indians (16-12) play at defending state champion Wayne (26-6) in the Region 4 championship game Thursday.

* * *

REGIONAL FINALS in each of the sport's three competitive classes will be played Thursday. In Class AAA, state champion and top-ranked John Marshall (30-3) will play host to Wheeling Park (19-5) in the Region 1 championship, with Jefferson (19-8) playing at Elkins against either Buckhannon-Upshur (19-11) or Elkins (10-13) in Region 2.

Jefferson upset Class AAA No. 5 Musselman (27-6) 5-0 in the Region 2 semifinals last Friday. The regional semifinal between B-U and Elkins has not been completed because of last week's rain. The Buccaneers led the Tigers 4-0 in the fourth inning when the game was postponed. The semifinal will be concluded Thursday as part of a regional doubleheader.

In Class AA, top-ranked Ritchie County (28-2) visits Braxton County (22-7) in Region 1, Petersburg (26-6) plays at Robert C. Byrd (21-11) in Region 2 and Westside (21-6) plays at James Monroe (22-5) in Region 3.

Two-time defending champion Buffalo (30-4), the top-ranked team in Class A, plays host to Doddridge County (19-9) in the Region 4 title game. Wheeling Central (20-8) plays at St. Marys (23-8) in Region 1, South Harrison visits Moorefield (24-3) in Region 2 and Fayetteville (14-15) plays at Man (18-5) in Region 3.

Contact Preps Editor Derek Taylor at derek.taylor@dailymail.com or 304-348-5170. Follow him on Twitter @ItsreallyDT


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