Prep softball: Rogers, Redskins rally for victory over rival Knights
HURRICANE, W.Va. -- When Hurricane spotted Cabell Midland a three-run lead in the opening inning of the first regional softball game in school history Thursday, conventional wisdom predicted the end of the Redskins' season to be imminent.
All things are relative, however.
Hurricane answered with two runs in the second, and consecutive doubles by Emily Davis and Maddie Hebb scored four runs in the third, paving the way for a 6-5 win and the school's first berth in the Class AAA Region 4 championship.
"If we played badly in the first inning, I know we would have gotten down on ourselves and not played well the rest of the game," Hurricane pitcher Courtney Rogers said. "If I don't pitch well I know I have to pick myself hitting, and if I don't hit well I know I have to pick myself up pitching."
It was the fourth meeting of the season between the rivals. In their last meeting, Midland (26-6) exploded for eight first-inning runs in what became a 12-2 win in the Mountain State Athletic Conference championship game on April 24 at Hurricane.
All three of Midland's first-inning runs were unearned, and it was Rogers who got the Redskins (29-6) on the board in the second by leading off with her 11th home run of the season, hit to straight-away center field. Junior Addie Fullen later scored on an RBI fielder's choice by freshman Amber Null, and Hurricane was right back in the game.
"That loosened everybody up," Hurricane Coach Josh Caldwell said. "Then we were able to get into a little bit of a rhythm."
When it was time for Rogers to return to the field, it was with a markedly increased efficiency.
"She was a different pitcher," Midland Coach Jeanne Lunsford said.
"She tried to keep us more off-balance, and was throwing us (inside), making us pop up instead of hitting ground balls. That's what she did, and she did a good job."
Rogers was helped out by her defense as well. From the third through the seventh innings the Redskins played error free, allowing their offense to find its swing against Midland starter Kyla Shull.
"Neither of the teams hit the ball like we did the first time we faced each other. We did all right after we made a couple bobbles there in the first," Davis said. "We knew that if we let them get on base they'd get hits."
Davis took an 0-1 pitch from Shull to right-center with two outs, scoring Cassi Sargent and courtesy runner Kaylee Wooten to give Hurricane the lead for good. Hebb followed Davis to the plate and drove a 2-1 pitch to almost the same spot as Davis' hit, scoring Fullen and Davis.
"I felt pretty good at that point. I knew we had to get those runs in," Davis said. "We were down, but I feel like we really stepped up when we needed to."
Midland put up one last battle in the top of the seventh, pulling to within 6-4 on a one-out RBI single by Jordan Colliflower. Jenny Brumfield reached to load the bases when Davis couldn't hang on to her line drive to third, setting the table for No. 6 hitter Savannah Eplin.
Eplin smacked what looked to be a single to center field that scored Colliflower, but Pierson was able to gun down Morgan Kelly at third on a force play, rendering the play a fielder's choice.
Rogers got Erin Kaplan to pop up to second baseman Madison Casto to close out the win.
Hurricane will play host to St. Albans (28-4) at 6 p.m. next Thursday with a State Tournament bid at stake.
"That's the worst thing for our team, is to overlook somebody," Caldwell said of facing St. Albans for a third time this season.
Hurricane has beaten the Red Dragons twice, by scores of 9-0 and 12-0.
"St. Albans has a team that can come here and win next week, so we cannot overlook that. They've got the same ticket to punch that we do," Caldwell said.
Davis and Rogers were each 2-for-3 in the win while Pierson went 2-for-4. Midland senior Morgan Zerkle closed out her prep career by going 3-for-4 with two runs scored.
Contact Preps Editor Derek Taylor at email@example.com or 304-348-5170. Follow him on Twitter @ItsreallyDT.