CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Forget the cliches about familiarity and contempt. Hurricane's pursuit of its first Class AAA softball state tournament appearance comes down to being able to do some very basic things today.
"To me, it's about getting outs and scoring runs," Redskins Coach Josh Caldwell said Wednesday. Class AAA No. 3 Hurricane (28-6) plays host to rival and second-ranked Cabell Midland (27-5) in a Region 4 semifinal at 6 p.m. today in what will be the teams' fourth meeting of the season.
"I almost think it's like a boxing match," Caldwell said. "There's big innings you would expect from both teams. We've got to match them and withstand their best shot. We have to get out of innings. They're going to score some runs, so we have to score some runs too."
The prior meetings between Hurricane and Midland saw plenty of runs scored. The Redskins beat the Knights 15-13 at Hurricane on April 10, then fell to Midland in Ona 9-8 four days later. Most recently, Midland pounded out eight runs with two outs in the first inning en route to a 12-2 five-inning win over the Redskins in the Mountain State Athletic Conference championship game at Hurricane on April 24.
Caldwell said he hopes the recent lopsided loss provides his team with motivation, but emphasized his team's need to keep its head in the game and eliminate mental and physical mistakes.
"When we get two outs in the first inning we've got to close the deal," he said. "I'd rather have lost that last one than this one. The mood of the team is great. The girls just have to keep in mind that whoever loses this one isn't playing on Friday."
Hurricane sophomore pitcher Courtney Rogers (17-3) will likely start for the Redskins tonight against Midland junior Kyla Shull (10-2). Rogers continues to do as much damage with her bat as with her arm, and wrapped up the regular season with a .516 average and 49 RBI. She hit a pair of home runs in the Redskins' sectional tournament series win over fourth-ranked Lincoln County to increase her area-leading total to 10.
The Redskins aren't short on hitters, however. At the end of the regular season the team had all nine starters batting better than .350 and seven better than .400: Rogers, senior catcher Linzie Reynolds (.477), sophomore shortstop Cassi Sargent (.467), sophomore second baseman Madison Casto (.455), freshman first baseman Maddie Hebb (.447), junior left fielder Addie Fullen (.443), sophomore third baseman/pitcher Emily Davis (.426), senior center fielder Nicole Pierson (.398) and freshman right fielder Amber Null (.387).
Senior third baseman Morgan Zerkle leads the Knights with a .647 average, four home runs and 23 RBI from her leadoff spot in the batting order. Senior first baseman Morgan Kelly has continued to provide the Knights with significant pop in the middle of the order. She is batting .456 with eight homers, 17 doubles and 54 RBI.
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THE OTHER half of the MSAC playoff field meets at South Charleston tonight, when the Black Eagles (19-9) play host to Class AAA No. 10 Ripley (16-6) in a Region 3 semifinal.
South Charleston has won both prior meetings over the Vikings this season. SC was down to its last at-bat and on the brink of being no-hit when a Ripley error led to a 1-0 win by the Black Eagles at home on April 11. Then, in the MSAC consolation game at Hurricane on April 24, SC senior pitcher Alli Burdette (18-7) surpassed the 1,000-strikeout mark for her career in leading her team to a 5-1 win.
Ripley reached the regional semifinals by beating Riverside 3-2 in eight innings in the third game of the Region 3, Section 4 championship series.