Prep softball: Redskins seniors have blazed new path
HURRICANE, W.Va. - Throughout the 33-year history of state championship high school softball, not much consideration had ever been given to Hurricane High School.
Until Linzie Reynolds, Nicole Pierson, and the other Redskin seniors stepped foot inside the walls of Hurricane four years ago, that is.
Reynolds and Pierson, both four-year starters, have helped set numerous records for the program, but none more important than their latest accomplishment set last Friday night.
The third-ranked Redskins defeated No. 8 St. Albans 2-0 in the Class AAA Region 4 final at Hurricane, allowing them to advance to the State Tournament for the first time in program history.
Hurricane (30-6) will play No. 6 Wheeling Park (20-6) at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday at Jackson Park in Vienna in the double-elimination format.
The Redskins are certainly battle-tested after facing a murderer's row just to reach the tournament, having beaten No. 4 Lincoln County, No. 2 Cabell Midland, and SA along the way.
"This is awesome, making our first trip to the State Tournament," Pierson said. "We are making history. I am crying I'm so happy. This means everything to me. This has been my dream since my freshman year, and now it's coming true. It's like a fairy tale almost."
Making it to the State Tournament caps a great career from Reynolds and Pierson and groundbreaking achievements for the Hurricane program that includes six seniors.
Outfielder Breanna Copley, first baseman Kristyn Bess, outfielder Courtney Lindmark and third baseman Haley Byrd - a starter in 2012 - complete the Redskins' list of seniors.
The 30 wins this season set the mark for most single-season wins in school history. Pierson and Reynolds immediately left their mark on the program in 2010, when as freshmen the two helped lead Hurricane to its first 20-win season.
Redskins Coach Josh Caldwell said knows the impact the seniors are leaving at Hurricane.
"They have had four winning seasons and I believe it's their 91st win," Caldwell said. "That's huge. It's Hurricane's first 30-win season, and now first State Tournament. These girls will always be known as the team to get us to this point. We have a special place in our heart for these kids."
It wasn't easy for Hurricane against St. Albans in the Regional final, as the Redskins had to survive not only the Red Dragons but also more than a two-and-a-half-hour lightning delay.
Fittingly, it was Pierson and Reynolds that helped Hurricane survive.
In the fifth inning of a scoreless game, sophomore leadoff hitter Madison Casto reached on an error, and Pierson sacrificed her to scoring position at second base. A wild pitch got Casto to third with two outs before the lightning struck, causing the delay.
After nearly three hours, Courtney Rogers drew her third walk of the game, setting up Reynolds, who singled to left field for what proved to be the game-winning run.
"Knowing my team needed me and I was able to deliver in the clutch to help them, it is the best feeling anyone could ever have," Reynolds said. "I was so excited. It means everything."
Pierson will continue playing softball at Shenandoah University (Va.). She signed last Friday, the same day Hurricane advanced.
"Nicole has been great in center field and is one of our great leaders," Caldwell said. "She has been huge for our program. I'm really proud of her, and she will be a huge asset to that program (Shenandoah). That's great."
The fifth-year coach didn't mince words about the benefits Reynolds has given the program.
"There is not a better catcher in the state than Linzie. There are some great ones, too. She is fantastic and has been huge. Linzie has hit the ball fantastic all year, is clutch, and is a great defender. She is huge for our team and program," Caldwell said
Reynolds said she could choose no better way to end her prep career than making a trip to Vienna.
"It is the best feeling in the world, especially for me and Nicole," Reynolds said. "We are four-year starters and have worked our butts off. We are childhood friends. To be able to be on the field together and go this far, it is amazing. It means the world."
Contact sportswriter Christopher Wade at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1735.