There's not too much that the softball teams at Hurricane and St. Albans have in common other than the use of the color red in their uniforms.
St. Albans is a perennial Class AAA power. Hurricane won 20 games in a season for the first time just four years ago, in 2010, the same year SA won its only state championship. It is the only big-school title won by a Kanawha Valley team in the sport.
The Redskins (29-6) hit for power and average throughout their lineup, from spots one-through-nine in the batting order. St. Albans (28-4) is a top-heavy team that relies heavily on the run production supplied by its three most experienced players.
St. Albans has ridden the reliable right arm of one pitcher for three years. Hurricane typically starts the same pitcher from game-to-game, but often calls upon its top reliever by game's end.
When the teams meet at 6 p.m. today in Hurricane for the Region 4 championship there is one similarity that could significantly alter the game's outcome, depending on who gets the upper hand.
Catchers Linzie Reynolds and Mariah Caudill are the top backstops in the Kanawha Valley. Both are seniors, and among the area's leaders in batting average, home runs and RBI.
"I think she's a great player. We said that from the very beginning, and every time we play them Linzie's been No. 1 in our (pregame) rundown of things," said Caudill, who was the All-Kanawha Valley selection at catcher as a junior.
"She throws down runners. She's got the green light to throw to wherever she wants to, so you've got to pay attention. She has a certain confidence about her. As a catcher, I like to look at a hitter when she's up at the plate to kind of get an idea of their approach. If they go up there with confidence I know, 'OK, this girl's looking to hit' and that will affect where and how we pitch her.
"Linzie always goes up there with that kind of confidence."
Reynolds is hitting .476 with six home runs, 13 doubles and 43 RBI entering the regional final. Caudill is batting .460 with four homers, a Kanawha Valley-leading seven triples, four homers, 10 doubles and 55 RBI.
Passed balls are few and far between in games involving either senior. Caudill's height and agility allow her to stop just about anything thrown her way, and Reynolds' athleticism makes a pitch that goes to the backstop a rarity.
"She is one of the best catchers around, period. She's just a great athlete and a great player, on and off the field," Reynolds said of Caudill. "She was an all-stater, and something I've been working toward since I was a freshman.