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Prep softball: Sectional win serves as curtain call for St. Albans duo

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Neither of St. Albans' senior softball stars realized the weight of their victory in the Class AAA Region 4, Section 2 championship until after the fact.

Sure, the 15-6 and 14-7 wins over Logan last Thursday improved the Red Dragons' record to an unanticipated 27-4, the most wins by the program in a single season since it went 34-1 and won the Class AAA state championship in 2010.

Yes, it assured pitcher Ali Haynes and catcher Mariah Caudill of another week of play. St. Albans visits Region 4 newcomer Point Pleasant in a regional semifinal Thursday.

It also served as the last game in St. Albans for the highly successful duo. The winner of Thursday's semifinal will play at the winner of Thursday's semifinal between Hurricane and Cabell Midland on either the Redskins' or Knights' home field May 16.

The well-grounded Haynes has always been the calmest of interview subjects. The realization of her impending exit shook her.

"Oh my God. Oh my God, I didn't think about that, but it is," Haynes said when she'd been told she'd played her last home game.

The win was the 109th win in the seniors' career as four-year starters.

"I love this field. I don't cry; I don't, but I didn't think of that. Don't tell Mariah. She'll cry," Haynes said while composing herself with a laugh.

"It's really emotional, because we actually got it switched to where we'd have sectionals here. To win all three games in the sectional here is awesome."

It would have been hard to put a buzz-kill on Caudill's sectional-clinching night. She went a combined 6-for-9 in the doubleheader with a two-run home run, three doubles and eight RBI, giving her more than 50 runs driven in this season (52).

Caudill enters regional play with 18 career homers and 138 career RBI. Haynes, who is Kanawha County's all-time Class AAA pitching wins leader with 75, has 52 career doubles and 116 career RBI.

"It was good way to go out," said Caudill, who incidentally did not cry.

"I think it helped me. I know Ali and me put a lot of pressure on ourselves because we're seniors and we have to do this and have to do that," she said. "I think we both went out there today and did our job."

Caudill and Haynes have contributed to nearly 21 percent of St. Albans Coach Greg Garber's 521 career wins.

"They've been together since they were 7," Garber said. "What's important is the type of kids and workers they are. I mean, I don't know if you could find anybody that could say anything bad about them.

"If you see them out in the field they're trying to encourage their teammates, they're coaching them. They're just outstanding players."

*  *  *

HURRICANE'S come-from-behind win over Class AAA No. 4 Lincoln County (24-9) in the Region 4, Section 3 championship game last Thursday not only gave Coach Josh Caldwell his first sectional title, but is the first in school history.

The third-ranked Redskins (28-6) have already set the new standard for single-season wins in school history. Life among the state's traditional power center for prep softball has not always been easy, however. Hurricane's first 20-win season came in 2010, Caldwell's second year as coach.

Addie Fullen's two-run, two-out homer in the sixth inning tied the game at 5-5. Freshman first baseman Maddie Hebb led off the seventh with a triple as part of a 4-for-4 showing at the plate, and sophomore Courtney Rogers hit her Kanawha Valley-leading 10th homer as part of an eight-run inning that put the game out of reach.

As a prize for their first sectional championship win, the Redskins get rival and second-ranked Cabell Midland (27-5) in the Region 4 semifinals at Hurricane on Thursday.

*  *  *

AN UNEARNED RUN in extra innings kept Riverside from the Class AAA Region 3, Section 4 championship Saturday. It also kept the Warriors from breaking a school record.

Ripley's Myranda Murphy scored the winning run of Saturday's sectional championship on an error in the bottom of the eighth inning in Ripley. The 10th-ranked Vikings (16-6) visit unranked South Charleston (19-9) for a Region 3 semifinal Thursday. SC has beaten Ripley twice in as many meetings this season.

The tough-luck loss ended Riverside's season with a 20-16 record. That ties the 2006 team led by Lori Boswell and KaraBeth Ullom for the school's most wins in a single season. The 2006 Warriors finished 20-9.

Riverside four-year starting pitcher Sara Winter took the loss, wrapping up a successful career in which the program averaged 16.8 wins per year.

*  *  *

ALL REGIONAL semifinals are scheduled for Thursday. Among other games including Kanawha Valley teams is Sissonville's third meeting of the season with rival and Class AA No. 2 Herbert Hoover (23-3). The Indians (15-12) came within one run of the Huskies in a pair of regular-season losses.

Also, two-time defending Class A state champion and top-ranked Buffalo (29-4) visits unranked Wahama (20-11) in a Region 4 semifinal. In Class A's Region 3, No. 4 Sherman (24-7) plays host to No. 8 Man (17-5).

Contact Preps Editor Derek Taylor at derek.taylor@dailymail.com or 304-348-5170. Follow him on Twitter @ItsreallyDT.


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