HURRICANE, W.Va. - The monkey that was firmly attached to Hurricane's back was more like a 300-pound gorilla, or the elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about.
The Redskins shed all of those clichés for failure Thursday evening, scoring eight runs in their last at-bat to take a 13-6 victory over Lincoln County in the deciding game of the Class AAA Region 4 Section 3 tournament. A loud crowd of about 400 attended the matchup of state-ranked teams at Hurricane High School.
Hurricane, which finished third in the final state sportswriters' Class AAA poll, will host No. 2 Cabell Midland next Thursday in the Region 4 semifinals. The teams have already met three times, with Hurricane taking a 15-13 decision then falling 9-8 in the semifinals of the Best of the Best Softball Classic and 12-2 in the championship game of the Mountain State Athletic Conference tournament.
The Redskins (28-6), who set a school record for wins to break last year's mark, finally got past the No. 4 Panthers, who have knocked them out of the postseason the past five years.
"We've been on the other end every year and we've had some good teams,'' said Hurricane fifth-year coach Josh Caldwell, whose team overcame six errors and adversity Thursday with 16 hits.
"It was a huge step for us. At times we looked like a Little League team. What can you say? [Our players] came out in the seventh and knocked the ball all over the place. I'm really proud of them for battling back.''
It wasn't easy, though. Hurricane won the sectional opener convincingly 9-2 Tuesday then lost Wednesday 7-5 before needing a late-inning rally Thursday. Hurricane fell behind 1-0, 4-3 and 5-3 Thursday but battled back every time.
Caldwell didn't hesitate to replace starter Courtney Rogers on Thursday after only facing four batters and allowing one run in the first inning. Emily Davis finished up with five runs allowed (three earned) on nine hits in 62/3 innings.
The Redskins also lost some momentum when starter Nicole Pierson left the game briefly in the third inning after they took a 3-1 lead. Pierson took a ball off the face in center field, but returned in the sixth for the final two innings, singling and scoring in the seventh.
"We just knew we wanted to win really bad,'' said Rogers, who celebrated her 16th birthday with a three-run home run in the seventh that helped secure the win. "It was a little shaky at the beginning, but we just knew we had to get our stuff together and win it. This is the best feeling ever.''