WEST UNION - Doddridge County fifth-year head coach Carrie Curran's team has been here before, but this spring the Bulldogs will be on the road needing one win to reach next week's state softball tournament at Jackson Park.
During last year's Class A, Region II championship game in West Union, the Bulldogs were eliminated from the postseason after suffering a 17-4 five-inning setback to Moorefield. Starting at 6 p.m. today, the current 19-9 Bulldogs will try to advance to their first state tournament, but must find a way to get past host Buffalo, which has produced 29 victories against just four setbacks.
"I know that they have good pitching," said Curran, whose team has been led offensively by Ashlie LaFalce (.470 AVG, 5 HRs, 11 2Bs, 33 RBIs) and Lacy Perkins (.468 AVG, 14 2Bs, 29 RBIs).
"I know the top of Buffalo's batting order is strong and they will run a lot. They are quick on the bases."
After making their first regional final appearance last year, the Bulldogs are now in Region IV. They had to rally for a 6-5 win versus Gilmer County in the regional semifinal as they once again are one of the final eight teams which remain standing in single-A.
"That was our goal this year to get back to the regionals," said Curran, who is once again being assisted by Josh Leep. "We really only graduated one starting senior last year.
Region Softball Finals
All Games Thursday
Wheeling Park (19-5) at John Marshall (30-3), 5 p.m.
Semifinal: Buckhannon-Ushur (18-11) at Elkins (10-13; winner vs. Jefferson (19-8)
Shady Spring (20-2) at Ripley (22-10), 5 p.m.
St. Albans (28-4) at Hurricane (29-6), 6 p.m.
Ritchie County (28-2) at Braxton County (22-7), 6 p.m.
Petersburg (26-6) at Robert C. Byrd (21-11)
Westside (21-6) at James Monroe (22-5)
Sissonville (17-12) at Wayne (25-6)
Wheeling Central (20-8) at St. Marys (23-8), 6 p.m.
South Harrison at Moorefield (24-3), 6 p.m.
Fayetteville (14-15) at Man (18-5), 5 p.m.
Doddridge County (19-9) at Buffalo (29-4), 6 p.m.
"This year, we've hit a lot better and that's one of the things that has really helped us. The competition in our sectional this year was also harder."
Although Perkins owns nine mound wins along with 100 strikeouts in 82 innings of work, Curran said she's likely going to give the starting nod to senior Megan Sheets. Sheets, who shares the same 1.87 earned run average with Perkins, leads the team with 10 victories and has fanned 114 in 85 2-3 frames.
The Bulldogs, who finished fifth overall in the Little Kanawha Conference, jumped out to a 4-0 lead on Gilmer County in the regional semifinal before having to score twice in the seventh to move on. Shortstop Tiffany Paugh had the game-winning RBI double that plated Perkins.
Third baseman Alissa Davis and first baseman Courtney Wilt are each hitting .373 this spring. Wilt is third on the team with 19 runs-batted-in.
"They've stepped up this year, our corners, and they have played pretty well," Curran said of Davis and Wilt.
Paugh is hitting .350 on the campaign and Sheets will carry a .304 average into tonight's regional final.
"Buffalo is expected to win. They've won state the last two years," Curran added. "I know they are a very good team, but there's also a lot of pressure on them.
"Most of our girls have played together since they were 9. They know how to play and can play good ball. It's just getting them all mentally together and playing well at the same time."