Hurricane tops Spring Valley 4-0

April 4, 2019

HURRICANE, W.Va. — For the better part of three days this past weekend in Barboursville, Hurricane proved its point that reports of its demise had been greatly exaggerated.

On Tuesday, the Redskins began the process of re-emphasizing their reclaimed status as the team to beat in Class AAA high school softball. The Redskins offense didn’t necessarily have its “A” game, but junior pitcher Harlie Vannatter certainly did as she tossed a no-hitter with 16 strikeouts and two walks in a 4-0 win over sectional foe Spring Valley.

Timberwolves leadoff hitter Riley Shirkey reached on an error to start the game, but Spring Valley didn’t put a ball in play again until the fifth inning as Vannatter sat down the next 12 she faced, all via strikeout. Though Spring Valley (8-6) put three runners on base in the sixth and seventh innings on two walks and an error, that elusive first hit never came and Hurricane claimed its 12th win in its last 13 games.

“They have a lot of good hitters so I just had to keep my stuff moving, I could never settle,” Vannatter said. “I couldn’t miss a pitch, because they’d probably hit it over the fence.”

The junior missed a few, but none of those mistakes came in the strike zone, and a vicious riseball had Timberwolves hitters swinging under the ball all night.

Hurricane got most of its offense in the third inning after Rachel Lyon and Reagan Schultz drew walks to start the frame. After Alivia Meeks struck out, Lindsey Phares came up with her second single to load the bases for Caiti Mathes, who delivered a two-run single to center field to get the Redskins (14-4) on the board. Phares scored on a passed ball to put Hurricane up 3-0.

The Redskins added a fourth run in the fifth inning after senior first baseman Taylor McCray, who recently returned to the lineup from a concussion, walked and scored on a single and an error off the bat of Zoey Dunlap.

Spirits are certainly up in Hurricane as the four-time defending state champions won Cabell Midland’s Sluggerfest tournament last weekend, finishing ahead of some of the state’s best programs and some from other states as well. In doing so, the Redskins had to win four straight games on Saturday, ripping off victories over Midland, Clay County, Hedgesville and Coal Grove to claim the tournament title.

It was a long day that went a long way in putting an early three-game losing streak (Cabell Midland, George Washington and St. Albans) far in the rear-view mirror.

“That was crazy, we were all exhausted but we wanted to win it,” Vannatter said. “We had something to prove. We had a rocky start so we wanted to prove that we could win.”

“That was our message that a lot of people were looking at us like we were beat up and we weren’t the Hurricane we used to be,” Redskins coach Meghan Stevens added. “We said we were going to go there and show everybody that we’re still the Hurricane that needs to be looked at and feared. We can hit the ball one through nine still and Harlie is still Harlie.”

Vannatter, a two-time first-team All-State selection and Bowling Green commit, has certainly looked herself as of late, lowering her ERA nearly a run and a half to 4.73. Tuesday’s performance certainly won’t hurt that number, and Stevens and the Redskins will take as many of them as the righty can deliver.

“She was locked in and it was really good to see, to see her get in her groove,” Stevens said. “At time she’s still tensing up a little bit and not trusting herself, but I mean, 16 strikeouts and 12 in a row, I’d say Harlie is well on her way back.”

Phares had the lone multi-hit effort of the day, finishing 2 for 3. She also made a key defensive play in preserving Vannatter’s no-hitter, ranging to her right to field a ball in the hole and throwing back to her left to gun down Spring Valley’s Sydney Wright at first base in the fifth inning.

Hurricane returns to action at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday with a doubleheader at Woodrow Wilson. Spring Valley entertains Wyoming East at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.

SPRING VALLEY 000 000 0 —0 0 1

HURRICANE 003 010 x — 4 5 2

Osburn and Wellman. Vannatter and Dunlap. Hitting: (H) Phares 2-3; Mathes 2 RBI.