State Champions

VIENNA -First-time state softball participants generally get overwhelmed by the experience and make a fast exit.

Somebody forgot to tell the members of the Hurricane High School Redskins.

On Friday, the only newcomer in the Class AAA field not only claimed the big school state championship, but did so in dominating fashion.

By eliminating Jefferson, 5-3, in Thursday morning’s loser’s bracket final, Wheeling Park earned another crack at Hurricane. The Patriots and Redskins had opened the Class AAA tournament on Wednesday morning with Hurricane emerging with a well-played, closely-contested 2-1 victory.

The championship contest wasn’t nearly as close. Hurricane pitcher Courtney Rogers scattered five hits, all singles, in hurling a 5-0 shutout. Meanwhile, Hurricane was banging out 11 hits of its own, including an RBI double and an RBI single by Rogers.

Cassie Sargent had a double and triple for the Redskins, who took a 2-0 lead in the third inning and never were in danger of losing their advantage or their grip on the championship.

Both of Hurricane’s third-inning scores came after the inning opened with two outs.

When Nicole Pierson beat out a single to the shortstop, it didn’t seem all that significant as Patriot starting pitcher Carly Greer had little trouble handling the Redskins her first time through the order. That’s when Sargent blasted a triple to right, scoring Pierson with the first run. Before Hurricane fans could get back in their seats from cheering that score, they had another to whoop about as Rogers delivered a single to right.

Speaking of Rogers, she had little trouble shutting down Wheeling Park’s usually potent bats. The Patriots finally threatened in the fifth inning when Colleen Tracy led off the inning with her second single of the contest and advanced to second when the ball was bobbled. But she got no further than third base as Rogers preserved her shutout.

Then came the bottom of the fifth, when Hurricane padded its lead. Leadoff hitter Madi Casto led off the inning with an infield single and advanced to second on Pierson’s sacrifice. Then came back-to-back RBI doubles by Sargent and Rogers. It was 4-0 Hurricane and one could sense the end was near.

The Redskins tacked on another score in the sixth, loading the bases on singles by Maddie Hebb, Casto and Pierson, with pinch-runner Haley Webb eventually scoring on a fielder’s choice.

Trailing 5-0 in the top of the seventh, Wheeling Park got its first two runners on base. But any thoughts of a stunning comeback quickly were erased when Hurricane first baseman Hebb snared a line drive and stepped on first for a double play that put the Redskins one out away from making school history. That out came on Rogers’ fourth strikeout of the game and the celebration was on.

Hurricane, which finished 33-6, placed four players on the all-tournament team -Rogers, Sargent, Casto and Linzie Reynolds. Representing Wheeling Park (22-7 including a regional win over defending state champion John Marshall ) on the honor squad were Greer, Skylar Carrington and Ashleigh Sidon. Lauren Lewis and Alexandra Witt represented Jefferson (21-9), which also received the sportsmanship award, and Chelsey Hager was the lone selection for Ripley (24-12).