Prep softball: Hurricane working toward second title
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - It took the Hurricane softball program 33 years to earn its first state championship, and Redskin coach Josh Caldwell knows what an important milestone it was.
With a new title now in his program's back pocket, Caldwell took a moment Thursday to make a little light of the situation moving forward.
"The goal is to win a state title and now we have won one, we don't have to win a game next year," Caldwell said with a laugh. "I'm just kidding. It's a good feeling but we are already getting ready to try and defend that title."
The players have been hard at work in an effort to do just that, not taking any time off from softball but instead have been playing a lot of ball in the Amateur Softball Association of America as well as taking part in the ongoing three-week summer practice period for high school athletes.
"We practice once or twice a week with ASA, and play in seven tournaments to go along with the three games we have played during the three weeks," said rising junior Courtney Rogers, who pitched a shutout in Hurricane's 5-0 win over Wheeling Park in the title game May 23 in Vienna.
Rogers, the 2013 West Virginia Player of the Year, plays for the West Virginia Dusters 16-and-under ASA team along with fellow junior-to-be Cassi Sargent, the Redskins' shortstop. The two will play in a tournament this weekend in Rock Hill, S.C.
There are several Hurricane softball players participating in ASA trying to build on the momentum of their state title with senior Addie Fullen and junior Madi Casto also serving as teammates as part of the under-18 Diamond Dusters.
The players said they enjoy getting to continue to play the sport they love with softball over the summer as much as they are, especially with ASA.
"It's really different going out of state playing in front of college coaches," Casto said. "There is a lot more competition. We all are still playing softball four to five days a week. It's a great experience."
"It's really fun getting to see new people, coaches, and different states," Rogers added. "Even though we play in different age groups and travel teams, we always see each other around the fields, and still get to hang out."
While the Redskins are hard at work with ASA, they also are taking part in the three-week period for Hurricane, having played two doubleheaders games against Poca and two individual games against Lincoln County, including a summer finale Thursday night.
Caldwell hasn't been stressing the summer games. He knows what type of team he has, especially coming off a state title. Instead, he has used the time to look at the incoming freshmen class.
"It's a lot less intense and sometimes you see people just going through the motions," Caldwell said. "It's part of it. You have some gone with vacation. With us winning the championship, it's not like I need to see our team and what they can do.
"It's more than anything to see the young kids. We have about six-to-eight freshmen. It's a chance to see them get to play and see what they can do. Every team has some positions available and want people to create competition for jobs."
The players are still basking in their great accomplishment winning the program's first state title, but with a strong nucleus coming back - they lost just two starters to graduation in catcher Linzie Reynolds and outfielder Nicole Pierson - they are hoping for a repeat next year.
"I still don't think it has hit me yet that we won but it was so great," Rogers said. "We were really excited, knowing all the hard work payed off. I can't wait for next year. I hope it will turn out just like it did this year."
"It was great and maybe a once-in-a-lifetime experience," Casto said. "We are very excited for next year already. Hopefully we can get another title and be the defending state champions."