On the other side of that region, however, lurks a minefield for any team hoping to make it to Vienna.
Mountain State Athletic Conference champ and No. 2 Cabell Midland should run roughshod in Section 1 against local rivals Spring Valley and Huntington. It's in Section 2 where the Region 4 fun begins, tonight in Hurricane.
It's there where the fourth-ranked Redskins (26-5) will host a best-of-three sectional set against No. 3 Lincoln County (22-6). The Panthers are more of an unknown quantity than in previous years thanks to the school's defection from the MSAC. Lincoln County did not play St. Albans this season - a rarity - and handed Hurricane a 9-1 loss in Hamlin on March 29, in the teams' only meeting.
The Panthers have been somewhat enigmatic. They've dropped games to Sissonville and to Logan and dealt with ace pitcher Brooke West's troubled back throughout the year by splitting her time with sophomore Faith Huffman, who has been up to task more often than not.
This is the big, red-letter section within the area. Fresh off its MSAC title win in 2012, Hurricane was unceremoniously dismissed from postseason play when Lincoln County swept the Redskins. This time, Hurricane enters the postseason coming off a reality-check of a loss to Midland in the MSAC title game. With sophomore Courtney Rogers leading a bruising offense, it will be hard for Lincoln County to get two road wins in three days.
Look for Hurricane to emerge from this week's action, then edge Midland on May 9 in the teams' fourth meeting of the year. That will set up a Region 4 final between Hurricane and St. Albans in Hurricane on May 16.
The Redskins have beaten Haynes 9-0 and 12-0 this season, and while the St. Albans senior is among the fiercest of competitors, the combination of Hurricane's ability to put the ball in play and eighth-ranked St. Albans' lack of team speed - the outfield of Addie Fullen in left field, Nicole Pierson in center and Amber Null in right is one of the fastest around and the ability of Madi Casto and Cassi Sargent to beat out infield hits is impressive - gives the Redskins a decided advantage, and will pave the way for their first State Tournament appearance.
While Hurricane should stop Haynes' four-year run of prep success, in Region 3 Alli Burdette at South Charleston could be on her way to returning the unranked Black Eagles (17-9) to the Promised Land. With 277 regular-season strikeouts and a 0.96 ERA, Burdette is unquestionably the most dominant pitcher in the region. That SC has begun to get solid offensive - and more importantly, defensive - contributions from players such as Meredith Cain, Kaylie Stanley and Madison Pauley makes Burdette's job considerably easier.
The Black Eagles should handle George Washington in their best-of-three series in Section 3 before meeting up with No. 10 Ripley (13-5) for a third time this year. Burdette has handled the Vikings twice, allowing just one run in two games. Look for them to advance to a Region 3 final against Shady Spring and eventually make their first trip to Vienna since falling in the 2008 title game.
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TWO-TIME defending Class A state champion Buffalo will use its section and regional semifinal games as tune-ups before facing either No. 5 Gilmer County (19-7) or No. 8 Doddridge County (15-9) in the Region 4 final. The top-ranked Bison (25-4) have started to hit the ball better in recent weeks, and with the 1-2 pitching punch of junior Chelsey Parkins (12-1, 121 strikeouts and a 1.04 ERA) and sophomore Ali Burdette (11-2, 116, 0.78) should again be playing on the final day of the season.
Contact Preps Editor Derek Taylor at derek.tay...@dailymail.com or 304-348-5170. Follow him on Twitter @ItsreallyDT.