Hurricane escapes Midland rally
HURRICANE -- No one can blame Hurricane coach Josh Caldwell for holding his breath each time he sees two outs on the scoreboard.
The last time his team met Cabell Midland, two-out scenarios were not exactly friendly to his Redskins.
On Thursday, Caldwell loved the two-out scenarios he saw as a pair of two-out hits erased an early deficit and Hurricane got a pressure-packed final out with the tying and go-ahead runs on to earn a 6-5 win over Cabell Midland in the Class AAA, Region IV semifinal at Hurricane.
It was a monumental win for Hurricane, who was taking part in its first-ever regional contest.
"This team is the closest, best team as far as chemistry and group of kids that I've ever been around," Caldwell said. "They don't want to quit and they don't want it to be their last day -- whether it's tonight or next Thursday or the next week. They enjoy being together and they enjoy the experience."
The next new experience for Hurricane now comes next Thursday when the Redskins will host St. Albans with a berth in the state tournament on the line.
The win over Cabell Midland certainly did not come easy for the Redskins, who had to survive a seventh-inning rally to celebrate the victory on the field afterward.
Trailing 6-3 and down to their last three outs, Cabell Midland's hitters woke up after five innings of pushing nothing across against Hurricane's Courtney Rogers.
Morgan Zerkle singled and scored on an RBI single by Jordan Colliflower and an error at third base loaded the bases with one out to set up the game's most pivotal play.
Savannah Eplin laced a shot to center field, but Hurricane's Nicole Pierson quickly fired to third to get a force-out on the Knights' Morgan Kelley, who had to hold up to see if the ball would be caught in the air.
With two outs and two runners still on, Rogers got Erin Kaplan to pop out to end it. It was the only time Rogers had retired Kaplan, who finished 3-for-4 with a triple and an RBI in the game.
"The center-fielder made a nice play there because Morgan was held up at second - do you go or do you not," Cabell Midland coach Jeanne Lunsford said. "She made a great play. We put the ball in play. We just started too late."
Much of the Knights' struggles came due to Rogers, who Lunsford said looked like a completely different pitcher from the one Cabell Midland was able to get to early in the MSAC Championship win two weeks ago.
"She changed her pitching style to our weakness and it was beneficial for them," Lunsford said.
After Cabell Midland jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first after a pair of Hurricane errors and three hits, Rogers sent a 225-foot blast to center field that helped calm the Redskins nerves in the bottom of the second.
The solo home run to lead off the inning started a stretch in which Hurricane touched up Cabell Midland starter Kyla Shull for a pair of runs in the second and a four-run third.
In that third inning, the bottom of the order came through for the Redskins as Emily Davis notched a two-run single up the middle before freshman Maddie Hebb blasted a two-run double off the wall in right to push the lead to 6-3.
Caldwell praised Rogers for getting the ball rolling.
"When she hit it, it loosened everyone up and we got into a little bit of a rhythm...," Caldwell said. "We came out a little nervous, a little tight I guess, but we came back and made the plays."
Rogers' plate presence might have changed the momentum, but it was her work in the circle that was the difference.
Cabell Midland has made a living off of its offense, averaging nine runs a game. After spotting them the 3-0 lead in which none of the runs were earned, Rogers blanked the Knights over the next five innings.
The five runs matched the Knights' lowest output of the season. In the five games in which Cabell Midland scored five runs, the team went 1-4, including Thursday night's loss.
"We have to come out and hit," Lunsford said. "We have to score more than five runs and we know that, as a team, (if we don't) it's going to be too close for us to possibly come out on top."
In addition to Rogers, Davis and Nicole Pierson added two hits each for Hurricane, who will host St. Albans at 6 p.m. next Thursday. The Redskins have defeated the Red Dragons in both regular-season meetings.
Cabell Midland's season ends at 26-6.
CABELL MIDLAND 300 000 2 -- 5 9 1
HURRICANE 024 000 x -- 6 10 4
Shull, Marsh (3) and Koontz. Rogers and Reynolds. Hitting: (CM) Zerkle 3-4; Colliflower 2-3, RBI; Kelley RBI; Kaplan 3-4, 3B, RBI. (H) Pierson 2-4; Rogers 2-4, HR, RBI; Davis 2-3, 2 RBI; Hebb 2B, 2 RBI.