HURRICANE, W.Va. -- Suddenly, the Hurricane Redskins are having trouble closing a deal.
Needing a win to eliminate Class AAA Region 4, Section 2 rival Lincoln County on Wednesday, the Redskins committed five errors that led to four unearned runs in a 7-5 loss that forced a deciding Game 3 of the series.
"Yesterday they kind of jumped on us, and we made some critical errors," Lincoln County Coach Rod Hoover said, referring to the Panthers' 9-2 loss to Hurricane in Tuesday's Game 1.
"Today, we made the plays. That makes all the difference, when you can come out and execute and play your game."
A week ago, the Redskins made seven errors on their home field in losing the Mountain State Athletic Conference championship game to Cabell Midland 12-2 in five innings. Coach Josh Caldwell reminded his team quite emphatically after Wednesday's loss that it is dangerously close to elimination, and his players would see their season end sooner than later if today's execution is not better.
Equally damaging to the Redskins' effort Wednesday, however, was the effectiveness of Lincoln County junior pitcher Brooke West. The former All-State selection kept the top third of the Hurricane batting order off base much of the game, keeping Hurricane from maximizing the production of its big hitters. Leadoff hitter Madison Casto, No. 2 hitter Nicole Pierson and No. 3 Cassi Sargent were a combined 0-for-11.
The same three hitters were a combined 129-for-293 (.440) entering this week.
"It was real important to keep those top three hitters off base," West said. "Casto is a big out for us. I'm just glad our defense worked today and we were able to make some outs."
West and the Panthers never trailed. After Lincoln County got out to a 1-0 lead in the second inning, Hurricane pitcher Courtney Rogers reached on a fluke infield single that popped up and hit the ground in no-man's land between the pitching circle and first base.
Linzie Reynolds followed her by smashing a line drive that appeared destined for the left-center field gap, but Panthers freshman shortstop Sarah Barrett snagged the ball out of the air in a leap, then recovered to double up courtesy runner Kaylee Wooten at first.
"She made an amazing play. She saved my life today," West said of Barrett's catch. "We just played really good defense today."
It didn't take long for the defensive gem to translate into an offensive spark.