Prep softball: Hurricane claims first state championship
VIENNA, W.Va. -- For the Hurricane High School softball team, Thursday was a case of another day, another cast member.
Only this time, the payoff for the Redskins' ensemble of sluggers was better than any before in the school's history.
Sophomore shortstop Cassi Sargent went 2-for-4 with a triple, a double and two RBI against Wheeling Park (22-7) in the Class AAA state championship game, leading Hurricane to its first state championship in the sport in a 5-0 win.
"Everybody can hit the ball no matter who it is. Everybody on this team," Sargent said. "No matter who has the great game, 1 through 9 we can hit the ball no matter what."
Sargent went 1-for-6 in the Redskins' opening-round wins at Jackson Park on Wednesday, while teammates such as Addie Fullen, Amber Null and Nicole Pierson shouldered most of the burden of production.
On Thursday, with a title on the line, it was the heart of the Redskins' lineup that shined. Sargent, the No. 3 batter in the order, followed Pierson's two-out single in the bottom of the third with a check-swing that resulted in a triple, as the ball rolled into the right-field corner.
Pierson - hell-bent for home - even shoved the home plate umpire out of the baseline he was blocking as she came around to score what proved to be the game's winning run.
Sophomore pitcher Courtney Rogers followed Sargent to the plate and smacked a run-scoring single to left field, giving her more than enough run production to keep Park at bay.
Hurricane (33-6) built a 4-0 lead in the fifth. Leadoff hitter Madison Casto reached on a throwing error by Park third baseman Kelsi Johnson, which put Casto in scoring position for Pierson to sacrifice her over to third. With one out, Sargent again ripped an extra-base hit, this time a double to left-center field.
Again, Rogers followed with her own hit off Patriots starter Carly Greer, who had pitched three innings in Wheeling Park's loser's bracket final win over Jefferson earlier Thursday morning.
The insurance runs came after Hurricane's biggest defensive stand of the game, and proved to be the straw that broke the Patriots' back.
In the top of the fifth, Patriot designated player Colleen Tracy led off with a single and advanced to second when Fullen overthrew Casto at second. Morgan Karnell's sacrifice gave Park a runner on third with one out still down just a pair of runs.
However, Kelly Albers' fly ball to center was caught on the run by a charging Pierson, and was too shallow to allow Tracy to tag. Skylar Carrington followed Albers to the plate, and the No. 9 hitter in Park's lineup went down on strikes to end the inning.
"That was really big," said Rogers, who scattered five singles, struck out three and issued two walks in getting the win and finishing her season with a 21-3 record.
"I knew that if they could have scored there they could have come back," Rogers said. "I thought they seemed a little bit down and they weren't really in it after that."
Hurricane added a run in the sixth, when senior pinch-runner Haley Byrd scored on an error and a fielder's choice after being substituted into the game for Hebb.
Hurricane Coach Josh Caldwell said he thought the Redskins' defensive effort was the key to the championship-game win.
"We've taken some heat during sectionals and regionals because we've made some errors, but I thought we stepped up - especially this game - and made some fantastic plays," Caldwell said. "(I'm proud of) just the guttiness and the determination of the team to finish it.
"It's a great group of kids. They deserve it."
Park mounted one last rally, but it also came up empty. In the seventh inning the Patriots had runners at first and second with no outs when Tracy lined a pitch right at Hebb at first base. The freshman speared the ball with her glove and calmly stepped on the bag to double up Greer, who had already broken for second.
It was Hebb's second gem of the day. In the sixth she went into foul territory to catch a pop-up by Marissa Tucker that went out of play. Hebb reached into the crowd that was lined two-deep along the fences to the field and recorded the first out of what became a 1-2-3 inning for Rogers.
It was both teams' first appearance in a softball state championship game. Park had upset season-long No. 1 John Marshall in regional play to reach the tournament.
"I'm proud of the girls. They worked hard all season, but Hurricane's a really, really good team. They deserved to win," Davis said.
Pierson and Hebb were 2-for-3 while Rogers went 2-for-4 with two RBI as the Redskins pounded out 11 hits. Tracy led Park at the plate by going 2-for-3.
Contact Preps Editor Derek Taylor at email@example.com or 304-348-5170. Follow him on Twitter @ItsreallyDT.