Hurricane defeats GW to claim 5th straight triple-A softball crown

Photo by Jay W. Bennett Hurricane junior right-hander Harlie Vannatter delivers a pitch during Thursday’s Class AAA state championship game against George Washington at Jackson Park. Hurricane defeated the Patriots, 11-5, to win its fifth straight state crown.

VIENNA — George Washington’s Brianna McCown did all she could here Thursday at Jackson Park to make sure rival Hurricane wouldn’t get one for the thumb.

However, it wasn’t meant to be for the Mountain State Athletic Conference champions of head coach Kim Darby.

Hurricane took advantage of five Patriot errors and rallied from a 3-0 first-inning deficit en route to the Redskins’ fifth consecutive state championship following an 11-5 victory in the Class AAA title game.

“That was pretty great,” admitted HHS freshman third baseman Alivia Meeks, who took over at the hot corner and as the team’s leadoff hitter after Jayme Bailey graduated and moved on to Virginia Tech. “I mean there was a little pressure. I just had to muscle up and do it.”

Although the Patriots struck in the top of the first with a McCown two-run bomb after Lauren Price’s RBI single plated Katy Darnell, Meeks said the Redskins weren’t overly concerned.

“We kept our mood up,” said Meeks, who went 2 for 3, scored twice and had a run-batted-in. “We had a little bit of moments where we were kind of down, but I was proud of the way we came back. It was amazing and I’m glad to be here.”

Kalissa Lacy followed McCown’s homer with a single, but winning pitching Harlie Vannatter proceeded to retire 14 of the next 16 Patriots. McCown was the next to get a hit with a single in the fourth and Grace Smith singled in the fifth.

McCown had a one-out single in the sixth to finish 3 for 3, but courtesy runner Ava Wells was erased when Lacy reached on a fielder’s choice. Vannatter, who walked none and had five strikeouts while allowing nine hits and five earned runs, made one final mistake in the frame. That came on a 2-2 pitch to Emma Sitler, who jacked a two-run round-tripper to center. However, HHS still led 7-5.

The Redskins (33-6) of head coach Meghan Stevens pushed across three runs in the third to tie it. McCown reaggravated a leg injury when No. 9 hitter Reagan Schultz reached on a bunt single and went to second on GW’s first error. Schultz actually was gunned down at the plate after Meeks singled when Lindsey Phares’ fly ball was caught by Katy Darnell in center.

She fired to second baseman Ana Jiminez and her throw to catcher Emma Groe was just in time. After Meeks advanced to third on a wild pitch, Caiti Mathes (3 for 4) had an RBI single. Following a Taylor McCray single, Zoey Dunlap had a two-run double to left-center.

HHS grabbed its first lead with two unearned runs in the fourth. Emily Bennett battled through a 10-pitch at-bat before reaching on an error. Rachel Lyon, who went 3 for 4, followed with an infield single and then Schultz got on via a fielder’s choice bunt to load the bases. Meeks and Phares then came through with sacrifice fly RBIs.

The advantage for the four-time state champs increased to 7-3 after pushing across two more runs in the fifth. Dunlap walked and scored on Bennett’s RBI bunt. Vannatter reached on an error and crossed on Lyon’s RBI knock to left.

McCown, who allowed five earned runs and 13 hits with three walks and two strikeouts, faced nine Hurricane batters in the sixth. Four of them scored, but only two of the runs were earned. Mathes, Vannatter and Lyon had an RBI apiece, but Darnell got her second outfield assist when she gunned down Mathes trying to score from second on Dunlap’s single.

Vannatter, who needed 88 pitches to finish off her complete game, threw the final one of her junior campaign to Smith and she popped it up to the second baseman Phares to end it.

GW (32-8) advanced to the title game after scoring two runs in the bottom of the seventh to eliminate Washington (27-3). McCown scattered eight hits in the complete game triumph with a walk and six punchouts.

The GW Patriots trailed 1-0 after Washington got an RBI single in the top of the sixth by Hannah Ruffner, which plated Kylie Condon.

Coach Darby’s squad responded as Jiminez scored the tying run on Darnell’s RBI single. Sister Grace Darnell crossed with the winning tally on Groe’s walk-off RBI single.

Joining Meeks, Mathes, Dunlap, Vannatter, McCown, Gore, Price and Condon on the all-tournament team were Washington’s Katie Dubyak and Mackenzie Myers.

Wheeling Park was given the sportsmanship award.