CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- There have been plenty of opportunities for Hurricane's youngsters to crack under the pressure.
But at every turn, the Redskins have weathered the storm and are now on the brink of history as they prepare for their first state softball tournament appearance in school history. Hurricane will take on Wheeling Park at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday in the opening round of the Class AAA double-elimination event in Vienna. (See pairings, Page 2B.)
The Redskins (30-6) set school records for wins the past two seasons and finished third in the final state sportswriters' poll, their highest ranking to end a year. They hadn't even made it to the regional until this season.
Hurricane has made the leap with a starting lineup that features four sophomores and two freshmen. Sophomores Madi Casto (second base), Cassi Sargent (shortstop), Courtney Rogers (pitcher) and Emily Davis (third base) play key roles while freshmen Maddie Hebb (first base) and Amber Null (right field) stepped right into starting positions. Seniors Linzie Reynolds (catcher and Nicole Pierson (center field) and junior left fielder Addie Fullen have provided the direction and leadership for this young bunch.
"It's just a great group of kids,'' said fifth-year Hurricane coach Josh Caldwell. "They do things on and off the field together. A lot of Saturday evenings they'll be at bonfires. They're just a fun group. They do everything you ask of them.
"One of our biggest strengths is we're solid all through the lineup. There's really no weakness. Our depth has helped us a lot of ways. It pushes kids. It's hard to get kids to work their best if they know there's nobody to take their job. We have confidence in a lot of them.''
The Redskins' road through the postseason hasn't been an easy one as it has been littered with ranked opponents at every turn. They've disposed of No. 4 Lincoln County, No. 2 Cabell Midland and No. 8 St. Albans on their march to states.
Hurricane needed all three games of the double-elimination sectional to get past perennial nemesis Lincoln County, which has eliminated the Redskins the past several years.
The Redskins needed all hands on deck in the deciding game against the Panthers. Caldwell didn't hesitate to replace Rogers after she faced only four batters, with Davis finishing up by yielding just three earned runs in 62/3 innings. Then Pierson left the game briefly after taking a ball off the face in center field, but senior Courtney Lindmark stepped in for two innings.
Hurricane fell behind Midland 3-0 in the top of the first in the regional semifinals before rallying for the lead, then sweated out the top of the seventh as the Knights left two runners on base as the Redskins prevailed 6-5.
Hurricane shut out SA 2-0 in the regional final for its first victory this season when scoring less than three runs.