Hurricane claims 5th straight title
VIENNA, W.Va. - When Hurricane High School opened the softball season with a 2-3 record some people thought the dynasty built by the Redskins might be ending.
On Thursday afternoon, the Redskins put those thoughts to rest.
Hurricane used consistent hitting throughout its lineup and capitalized on four George Washington errors to earn an 11-5 win, giving the Redskins their fifth consecutive Class AAA championship at Jackson Memorial Park.
“I’m super-proud of them,” Hurricane coach Meghan Stevens said. “It’s not how we start. It’s how we finish. We said that we were going to finish better and we got better every game. We saw some teams implode and that just drew us closer. Our girls get along and they dig in for each other, and that makes it more special for us.”
In a way, Thursday’s win encapsulated the journey of the entire season.
Hurricane (33-6) overcame an early deficit, breaking through to take a lead in the fourth inning before using a four-run sixth inning in which the team batted around to solidify the title.
The key was execution in critical situations.
With the game tied 3-3 in the fourth inning, George Washington (32-8) committed an error to lead off the inning and the Redskins made the Patriots pay.
Rachel Lyon followed the error with a hit and Reagan Schultz got a bunt down which left the Patriots with no play, loading the bases with no outs before sacrifice flies from Alivia Meeks and Lindsay Phares gave the Redskins a 5-3 cushion.
The fifth inning was nearly a carbon copy as an error preceded a suicide squeeze by Emily Bennett before Lyon again plated a run with a single to expand the advantage.
George Washington cut the deficit in half at 7-5 on a two-run home run by Emma Sitler, but the Redskins batted around in the sixth inning, scoring four, to give pitcher Harlie Vannatter plenty of cushion to close the game.
The Patriots had four errors -- one in each of the last four frames -- and those were the innings when the Redskins scored all 11 of their runs.
“We’ve had a couple games like that where we can’t put it all together in the same game,” George Washington coach Kim Darby said. “It just so happened that this one was the state championship. I thought there were a few missed plays that hurt us.”
Lyon, the Redskins’ junior left-fielder, was a thorn in the side of the Patriots, going 3-for-4 with two RBI to lead a balanced attack up and down the Hurricane lineup.
“A lot of the time, the top is usually who scores,” Lyon said. “We sometimes move runners, but it was important -- especially against GW, who can hit -- for us to score as much as possible. We knew we had to do our part.”
Every position in Hurricane’s lineup reached base in the contest, which helped keep the pressure on George Washington, who had already played one emotional game on the day.
As the day wore on, the Patriots started to wear down and Hurricane capitalized.
“In an emotional game your adrenaline is up and we rode that through the first and second innings -- even half the game,” Darby said. “It’s kind of like that 2 p.m. crash, though. It went down and we were never able to get it back. We knew it would be tough to win, playing three games today. It almost feels like that Wednesday night game is the state championship game.”
Just moments after an exciting comeback win over Washington to stay alive, George Washington jumped on Hurricane early, plating three runs on five hits in the first inning with two coming on a home run by Brianna McCown, who finished 3-for-3 at the plate.
However, Vannatter settled in after that first inning, allowing just four hits the rest of the way as she steadied the ship.
The Redskins then broke through in the third inning with a two-out rally, using an RBI single by Caiti Mathes and a two-run double by Zoey Dunlap to knot the game.
“My offense came out and definitely had my back,” Vannatter said. “They tied it up and it was a 0-0 game from there.”
In addition to Lyon, Mathes was also 3-for-4 with two RBI while Dunlap and Meeks each added two hits.
George Washington got a pair of hits from Grace Smith to go with the production of McCown and Sitler.
GEORGE WASHINGTON 300 002 0 -- 5 9 4
HURRICANE 003 224 x -- 11 12 1
McCown and Groe. Vannatter and Dunlap.
Hitting: (GW) McCown 3-3, HR, 2 RBI; Smith 2-3; Sitler HR, 2 RBI. (H) Mathes 3-4, 2 RBI; Lyon 3-4, 2 RBI; Dunlap 2-3, 2B, 2 RBI; Meeks 2-3, RBI.