Miscues hamper Big Reds in regional opener loss

Parkersburg High’s Lexi Summers books it toward home plate on teammate Maggie Sauers’ RBI single in the fifth inning of the Big Reds’ 6-2 Class AAA Region IV tournament opening loss to Hurricane Monday at Worthington Ballfields. Photo by Josh Hughes

PARKERSBURG — A three-run bomb and 12 strikeouts from Harlie Vannatter set the tone early, as the Hurricane Redskins toppled the Parkersburg Big Reds by a final of 6-2 in Monday night’s game one of the Class AAA Region IV Championship at Worthington Ballfields. The defending AAA champion Redskins took advantage of mistakes from the Big Reds that proved costly in the first game of this best-of-3 series.

With two down in the first Caiti Mathes hit a grounder to the Big Reds’ Maddi Leggett, who failed to field the ball and record the out.

That set up Taylor McCray in the following at-bat to send her home with a hit up the middle. Following a Zoey Dunlap single that put runners on the corners, Vannatter came to the plate and helped her own effort with a shot to centerfield to make it a 4-0 game.

“It felt really good,” Vannatter said of the home run. “That was the only really good hit I had, so I’ll take it.”

What she lacked in offensive production for the rest of the contest, she made up for it with her pitching performance. After a solo home run hit by Emily Allen, Vannatter made the Big Red bats go cold.

Vannatter retired five of the next six PHS batters by way of the K, as the Big Reds had to keep Redskin batters in check to keep the game within reach.

Kenzie Riddle overcame a slow start in the first to shut out Hurricane over the next three innings, but she couldn’t find any run support during that time. That’s when the Redskins tacked on a crucial fifth run.

With one two-out rally under its belt, Hurricane felt it was time for another one in the fifth frame. The rally started with a hit up the middle by Mathes and a hit to left by McCray. A hit to right-center from Dunlap scored Mathes, but McCray was gunned down at the plate. While HHS extended the lead to 5-1, the Big Reds were still alive.

An RBI single from Sauers helped them inch a bit closer, but it was all Parkersburg could manage in the home half of the fifth. Another Hurricane run came in via a fielding error from Richards in center, as too many mistakes doomed the home team.

“We competed. We had some good at-bats, we had some bad at-bats, but the runs we gave up in the first inning obviously killed us,” PHS skipper Jason Roberts said. “We should’ve had those outs before those runs even happened. Harlie got a good bat on the ball when we should’ve already got out of the inning.”

The 0-1 Roberts’s Big Reds find themselves in will have to dug out of in Hurricane for the second game of this series in Hurricane, but for the Redskins, it’s business as usual for coach Meghan Stevens.

“I think it helps a lot that we have girls who have been here,” she said. “The expectation is the same. Win and go back to the tournament, so it’s a lot of pressure for them, but they handle it very well.”

The second game of this series starts at 6:30 p.m. today from Hurricane.