HURRICANE, W.Va. - Hurricane High School had already waited 33 years for a berth in the Class AAA softball State Tournament.
Another three hours weren't going to dampen the Redskins' spirits.
Senior catcher Linzie Reynolds drove in sophomore Madison Casto for an unearned run in the fifth inning Friday night, and sophomore Emily Davis smacked a solo home run an inning later, giving the Redskins (30-6) a 2-0 win over St. Albans (28-5) in the Region 4 championship game.
The win sends Hurricane to its first State Tournament, where it will play Wheeling Park (20-6) at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday at Jackson Park in Vienna.
"I was trying for a base hit. I didn't feel like it was a home run," Davis said of the blast to left-center field that proved to be the game's only earned run.
She was the only one in Putnam County who didn't know. The ball jumped off her bat and left the field of play in a hurry.
The blast had a relaxing effect that carried over into the top of the seventh. There, the Redskins were able to turn a double play after a leadoff double by St. Albans freshman Katie Holstein that all but killed SA's last gasp at a rally. After winning pitcher Courtney Rogers (19-3) got Amber Kemplin to fly out to left field, the deal was sealed.
"We had a one-run lead but we knew that wasn't enough," Davis said. "That second one really helped us out."
It was necessary because St. Albans senior ace Ali Haynes was pitching perhaps her best game of the season. Although Haynes (27-5) did not record a strikeout, she steadily kept Hurricane hitters from dealing the damage they typically impose on opposing pitchers, and elicited 11 fly outs.
Hurricane had beaten Haynes by scores of 9-0 and 13-0 earlier this season.
"That was the best I've seen her all year," said Rogers, whose hitting impact was minimized by three walks issued to her by Haynes. "I wasn't surprised. They've been there, and they were going to play their best tonight, I knew it."
It was just the fifth time this season Hurricane had been held to two runs or fewer. In each of the four previous incidences, the Redskins were tagged with a loss. The Redskins have not been shut out all season.
"I told everyone this week that we'd played before and we'd played great, but I felt everything had gone our way," Caldwell said. "I felt tonight that we played well, but St. Albans played well. We hit the ball, but they made plays. I think they had just the one error."
It proved to be a costly miscue. St. Albans freshman second baseman Maddie Chandler couldn't handle a sharp ground ball hit by Casto to lead off the bottom of the fifth. A sacrifice by Nicole Pierson moved Cast to second and a wild pitch put her on third before SA junior shortstop Madi Marshall snagged a sharply hit ball by Cassi Sargent for the second out.