PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — Having won four consecutive Class AAA state championships, Hurricane’s softball program holds itself to a high standard.
Although Redskins’ coach Meghan Stevens didn’t think her team played up to its capabilities Monday, Hurricane did enough to defeat Parkersburg, 6-2, on a rainy evening at the Worthington Little League Complex.
The victory gives Hurricane (29-6) a 1-0 advantage in the best-of-three Region IV series and the Redskins can earn a berth in the state tournament Tuesday with a win at home.
“We’ll take an ugly win over a pretty loss,” Stevens said. “This wasn’t really our style of play tonight with some strikeouts and bad at bats. We had some unfocused at bats and didn’t always take advantage of getting runners on base, but we won. Tomorrow, what we really hope to do is play Hurricane softball.”
A four-run first inning was a key factor in Hurricane claiming the first game of the series.
Caitlin Mathes reached on a two-out error that proved costly, with Mathes scoring moments later on a Taylor McCray single to center.
Following Zoey Dunlap’s infield single, Hurricane took a 4-0 lead when Harlie Vannatter belted an offering from Kenzie Riddle that easily cleared the fence in left-center for a three-run home run.
“The runs we gave up in the first inning obviously killed us,” Big Reds’ coach Jason Roberts said. “Those are runs after an error and we should have had three outs before those runs ever came in. Harlie got a good bat on the ball when we should have already been out of that inning.”
Parkersburg (19-11) got on the scoreboard in the home half of the second inning when Emily Allen led off with a home run to left.
Vannatter responded to the long ball by retiring nine consecutive batters, including six by strikeout.
Hurricane was still clinging to a 4-1 lead in the fifth and Riddle retired the first two batters of that inning. But instead of going down quietly, the Redskins produced three consecutive singles to add to their advantage, with Mathes scoring on Dunlap’s hit to right-center. McCray attempted to score as well, but was ruled out on a close play at the plate, leaving the Redskins with a four-run advantage.
Parkersburg got its deficit back down to three in the bottom of the inning following a one-out triple from Lexi Summers, who then scored on Maggie Sauers’ single to left.
The Redskins added insurance in the seventh after McCray singled to center and an error in the outfield allowed Mathes to come around from first.
VanNater retired the side in order in the bottom of the inning, including back-to-back strikeouts to end it, giving her 11 punchouts in the complete game win.
“Harlie has had a heck of a season and had a heck of a game. That puts her at over 300 strikeouts for the season,” Stevens said. “She’s been our workhorse. She’s pitched every game except two. She had a phenomenal game for us and I can’t say enough about her leadership.”
Riddle was tagged with the loss after scattering 11 hits in seven innings. She walked only one batter — the first of the game — and struck out five.
McCray finished 3-for-4, while Mathes and Dunalp each added a pair of hits in the win. Mathes also scored half of her team’s six runs.
Parkersburg finished with four hits in the loss.
“That’s a really tough team and if you make mistakes, they’re going to make you pay,” Roberts said. “And Harlie’s a good enough pitcher where you’re not going to get a bunch of hits. We just have to clean it up and be ready for tomorrow.”