GW aims to end Hurricane dynasty
VIENNA, W.Va. — Two teams look to continue dynasties, one look s to break through after years of knocking on the door, and another looks to make good on its first trip to the state softball tournament.
The double-elimination tournament begins Wednesday in Jackson Memorial Park with four-time defending Class AAA champion Hurricane (30-6) taking on Wheeling Park (12-11) at 9 a.m. on Field One. Games will stagger from there with Class A beginning at 9 a.m. with a matchup between Wheeling Central (13-7) and Sherman (30-4). Class AA kicks off at 1 p.m. with a game between Petersburg (30-3) and Nitro (28-8).
George Washington (29-6) plays Washington (26-1) in Class AAA at 11 a.m.
Just who is the favorite in Class AAA? GW coach Kim Darby believes it may be a case of her team not realizing its own potential.
“I still think they’re right where they need to be — they are thinking Hurricane is the team to knock off,” Darby said.
“I think I feel a little different. I don’t think they realize how good they are when they really play. Other coaches know how good we are, but they still think they’re playing chase to Hurricane.”
Darby added: “Me personally, I think Hurricane knows this could be the year (that the run of titles is broken), but that makes them more dangerous because they’re going to go in with everything and play like they have nothing to lose.”
While GW’s seniors are hungry for their first title, Hurricane’s are aiming to be the second straight class of Redskins to go four for four in terms of championships.
The Redskins had an uncharacteristically rocky start, going 2-3 in the team’s first five games. But since, and especially down the stretch, Hurricane has resembled the team that has put a stranglehold on the sport in West Virginia over the last half-decade. However, the Redskins lost both games in the regular season to George Washington, 9-2 and 8-3.
Caiti Mathes, who will carry a .593 average with 21 home runs and 68 RBIs into Vienna, is one of those Hurricane seniors along with catcher Zoey Dunlap and first baseman Taylor McCray. Losing in the state tournament isn’t part of that group’s DNA and Mathes said the team will rely on experience to try to get the job done yet again.
“We definitely know what goes on up there,” Mathes said. “We know (GW has) beaten us. We’ve come in and we’ve talked about it. We’ve just got to come in strong, hit the ball and get runners in.”
In the interest of leaving no stone unturned, the Redskins will also take a new mascot to Vienna, a team hamster that was promised if the Redskins advanced through regionals yet again.
“Its name is Coots and he’s really cute,” Mathes said.
George Washington is just 1-4 in the last two trips to Vienna, but all season long, riding a senior nucleus of five players and the arm and bat of junior Brianna McCown, the Patriots have played like a different team.
Class AA Nitro couldn’t be further from Hurricane in terms of state tournament success. The Redskins will look for their sixth title in seven years while Nitro is making its first trip to Vienna, relying mostly on freshmen and sophomores along the way.
Herbert Hoover (32-1) is looking to continue a recent run of success that includes the last two Class AA championships and a state title in 2014.