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Seventh-inning rally sends Hurricane past SC

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Hurricane's bats and dugout had been silenced for five straight innings Friday evening, but Nicole Pierson woke up her teammates in a big way.

The senior center fielder lined a two-out, two-run single to right field to give the Redskins the lead for good in their final at-bat in taking a 5-4 decision over South Charleston. A crowd of about 150 attended the matchup of Class AAA state-ranked teams at South Charleston High School.

"Oh, it's huge for us,'' said Pierson of the victory, which kept the Redskins undefeated at 5-0. "This is the best team we've played so far. I think we can do big things off this win. We came out and really wanted to win. We realized we were kind of down and we needed to get up and start cheering. We didn't want to lose. We had a drive to win.''

Hurricane, which was second in the state coaches association preseason poll, trailed 2-1 entering the top of the seventh before rallying past No. 9 SC (3-2). Redskins junior left fielder Addie Fullen led off the frame by reaching first base after getting hit by a pitch, then senior catcher Linzie Reynolds followed with a double to put runners at second and third with none out.

After a strikeout, senior Haley Byrd, who was pinch-running for Fullen after she was hit in the side of the knee, scored to knot the game at 2-all after SC freshman catcher Kaitlyn Snowden failed to hold on to strike three and the ball bounced away from home plate.

SC senior pitcher Alli Burdette fanned No. 9 hitter Amber Null and intentionally walked sophomore Madison Casto, the leadoff hitter, to load the bases with two outs. Casto was already 2 for 3 with a double.

That brought up Pierson, who whiffed in her first two at-bats then was hit by a pitch in her third plate appearance. Pierson ran the count to 1-2 before lining the fourth pitch in front of Black Eagles right fielder Jasmine Martin, driving in two runs to put Hurricane in front to stay 4-2.

"I knew we really needed those runs,'' Pierson said. "I had to concentrate, keep my eye on the ball and just throw my hands through it and hit it.''

Casto scored from first base when Martin threw the ball over Snowden's head and to the backstop for a 5-2 edge.

"We're proud of them,'' said Hurricane coach Josh Caldwell. "We felt like when [South Charleston's] Alli [Burdette] hit that home run in the first inning [for a 2-1 lead] they kind of got deflated. There in the sixth and seventh innings, we kind of came back to life and did what we needed to do and found a way to score at the end.''

Casto's run proved crucial as SC designated hitter Aaliyah Phillips, who was hitting ninth, smashed a one-out, two-run home run to center field to cut the deficit to one run (5-4) in the bottom of the seventh. Hurricane pitcher Courtney Rogers buckled down and forced Black Eagles leadoff batter Amanda McDowell to ground out and Kaylee Stanley to fly out. On Stanley's short fly, Fullen made a diving catch to end the threat.

Hurricane's Rogers allowed four earned runs on seven hits with one walk and seven strikeouts. She held SC scoreless from the second through the sixth inning. Sophomore Cassi Sargent drove in a run with a sacrifice bunt in the top of the first as the Redskins went in front 1-0.

It was a tough loss for Burdette, who gave up just four hits, two earned runs and fanned 16. She retired 12 straight hitters from the second through the sixth inning.

"We were in position to be out of the [seventh] inning and we just didn't make the play,'' said SC coach Bobby Catlett, who was missing two starters because of injuries and played five freshmen. "That right there is one of the best teams in the state, no doubt in my mind. We had them on the ropes pretty much all day and just didn't finish it.''

Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at tatkinson@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4811.


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