CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Josh Caldwell does not appear bothered that his Hurricane High School softball team did not receive the top ranking in the final regular season softball poll.
Sure, the Redskins convincingly beat still top-ranked Cabell Midland 6-3 on the Knights' home field a week ago in the Mountain State Athletic Conference semifinals, en route to the school's first conference championship in the sport.
Sure, Hurricane (25-5) finished off third-ranked St. Albans in a title game that was suspended for three days before claiming that crown, and yes, the Redskins then shut out the heretofore heavy-hitting Red Dragons 3-0 to complete a doubleheader sweep on Saturday.
Little, if any, of that matters beginning today with the start of postseason tournament play across the state.
Hurricane begins its venture in the Class AAA Region 4, Section 3 tournament at 7 p.m. Wednesday, when it faces the winner of a 5 p.m. game between rival Winfield (10-10) and defending state champion Lincoln County (20-8) in Hamlin.
The Panthers are ranked fourth in the state, part of a grip on the top of the West Virginia Coaches Association's Class AAA poll enjoyed by Region 4 teams. South Charleston (10-8) is No. 8 and Ripley is No. 10.
Caldwell's not worried about rankings at this point. Instead, he's got his focus on the team hosting his sectional.
"The big thing I think about Lincoln County is that they're a really good team. They've got five seniors and a pitcher that all started for the team that won the state title last year," Caldwell said Monday.
"Honestly, if they get by us I think they can go on and win it again."
Lincoln County won two of the three games played between the teams in the regular season, and has handed the Redskins their two most recent losses. The Panthers beat Hurricane 3-1 on April 17 and 12-0 four days earlier, in what Caldwell called his team's worst performance of the season.
"I don't think it's a match-up issue," he said in assessing the likely battle for the sectional title. "I think the games we play against them should be tight games."
Hurricane won the first meeting between the teams, 7-3, in Hamlin on March 27.
Unlike Lincoln County, Hurricane is built around their youth. Caldwell starts four freshmen in the infield, highlighted by second baseman Madison Casto, pitcher/first baseman Courtney Rogers and pitcher Emily Davis.
Cassie Sargent is the fourth freshman, and starts at shortstop.
Caldwell said he thinks his team is playing its best softball of the year at the right time. His counterpart in St. Albans, Greg Garber, is at the same time trying to turn around a ship that has seemingly been taking on water for more than a week.
"First and foremost we've got to play better defense," Garber said prior to the Red Dragons' regular season finale Monday at Boyd County, Ky. "We think pitching and defense are most important. We beat Lincoln County in the MSAC semis but for the whole (tournament) we played terrible defense. Against Hurricane, I counted five pop-ups that hit the dirt that we should have got. We typically just don't do that."
The Red Dragons have been battling injury issues with an already this roster that includes just 12 players.
All-State junior pitcher Ali Haynes has fought through a wrist injury on her throwing hand, underwent acupuncture therapy to remedy the pain late last week, and sat out St. Albans' doubleheader loss to Hurricane on Saturday.