ST. ALBANS, W.Va. - It didn't matter that Ali Haynes didn't have her best stuff on the most important pitching date of her season. She and her buddies at the top of the St. Albans softball lineup more than made up for it.
Haynes, senior catcher Mariah Caudill and junior shortstop went a combined 16-for-24 on Thursday, propelling the Class AAA No. 8 Red Dragons (27-4) to a doubleheader sweep of Logan (12-17) by scores of 15-6 and 14-7 in the championship series of the Region 4, Section 2 tournament at St. Albans High School.
Caudill had what she called "the best night of my season" in going 6-for-9 with a two-run homer in the first game, three doubles and a total of eight RBI.
"We haven't had all three of us put together like that for the last couple games," Caudill said after the Dragons banged out a total of 24 hits in the two games.
"My hitting, personally, has not been up to par. Coach has helped me, and I've worked on it. I just went up there tonight and didn't think about anything," Caudill said. "When Ali hit that first single in the first game, I think that got everyone going because we all thought, 'Okay, we can hit her.' We just fed off that."
St. Albans got out to a 1-0 lead in the first game when Haynes led off with a single then advanced on a Marshall sacrifice and eventually scored following a pair of passed balls. The inning lost its steam when Caudill was retired in a 5-3-5 double play.
The first win didn't come easily, however. Logan tied the game at 1-1 in the bottom of the second with an RBI single by Hannah Kolovich. It began a back-and-forth game that saw the Wildcats tie the score at 6-6 in the fifth inning off a St. Albans error and a two-run double by Hana Sedlock.
Logan's momentum was short lived. Amber Kemplin led off the St. Albans sixth with a single and scored when Marshall reached on an error. Caudill followed with a blast over the left-center field wall that gave the Dragons the lead for good.
Before Logan Coach Randy Robinette could make his second pitching change of the game in the seventh, SA freshman Kaitie Holstein, Haynes and Marshall had run-scoring singles and Caudill smacked a two-run double that chased reliever Antonia Hill from the circle.
"I'm proud of the way we battled back. Every time Logan scored, we had an answer for them," SA Coach Greg Garber said. "The production we got at the top of the order was great, but we also got a lot of contributions deep in the lineup; just little things like moving runners over that helped lead to big innings. That was big tonight."
SA took a 7-0 lead in the nightcap before Logan finally scratched a run across. The Wildcats had been hitting Haynes with regularity in the second game, but could not dent the scoreboard until the bottom of the fifth inning. A half-inning after Hill's RBI double and Shana Hall's run-scoring infield hit got them on the board, SA answered with a vengeance, tacking five more runs on the board thanks to singles from Haynes and Whitney Jones and another run-scorer from Caudill.
After the game, Haynes was satisfied with the end result, but critical of her own performance. Though she was 5-for-8 at the plate with a double and two RBI, she gave up a total of 11 earned runs in 13 innings of work.
"I think tonight was the first time this season coach and I weren't on the same page with what pitches we were calling," she said. "I'm happy that we all hit the ball well, and I'm definitely happy we won, but it's tough for me to get too excited when I know I could have pitched better."
St. Albans will play at Point Pleasant in the Region 4 semifinals May 9. Haynes said the Big Blacks' newness to Class AAA and Region 4 provides a welcome change for the four-year starter.
"I kind of like it because we haven't played them, just like we never played Logan before in the sectional until this year," Haynes said. "It was always just us and Nitro. I think that makes it more exciting for us."
Marshall finished the doubleheader by going 5-for-7 with three RBI. Game 2 loser Arron Ward was 4-for-8 on the night with three doubles and four RBI. Sedlock was 6-for-8 with two runs driven in.