HUNTINGTON - Throughout the season, Hurricane High School junior shortstop Caiti Mathes consistently delivered in clutch situations to lead the Redskins back to Vienna, West Virginia, for the state softball tournament.
So, it was only fitting that Mathes was the one standing at the plate as the Redskins looked to solidify their fourth straight Class AAA championship.
Mathes' final swing of the 2018 season punctuated the Redskins' season as she cranked a grand slam home run to left field to put the finishing touches on an 8-0 win over John Marshall at Jackson Memorial Park.
The swing not only put the exclamation point on Hurricane's 25-3 campaign, it also capped an impressive junior campaign for Mathes that featured her hitting .492 with 16 home runs and 61 RBIs. Those numbers led Mathes to being named as the captain of the Class AAA all-state first team as voted on by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association.
"Caiti is just made for that type of moment," Hurricane coach Meghan Stevens said. "She elevates her game in those situations and has consistently come through under pressure for us."
Mathes was one of several players who had the proverbial "clutch gene" for the Redskins in 2018.
The Redskins were balanced, featuring a blend of power and speed at the plate while also being bolstered by strong pitching in the circle and a playmaking defense that limited the opposition.
Because of that balance, Hurricane had four players on the Class AAA first team.
In addition to Mathes, the Redskins were represented by senior infielder Jayme Bailey (.426, six home runs, 29 RBIs, 16 steals), senior outfielder Kiersten Landers (.469, 31 steals) and sophomore pitcher Harlie Vannatter (21-3, 1.19 ERA, 200 K).
State runner-up John Marshall and Cabell Midland both placed three players on the first team.
The Monarchs were led by senior pitcher Lauren Garcia, who was a force in the circle and at the plate. Garcia batted .552 with 10 home runs, and 31 RBIs while going 17-3 in the circle with a 1.50 ERA. John Marshall was also represented by senior utility player Carli Lightner (.471, 4 HR, 34 RBI; 14-0, 2.00 ERA) and sophomore infielder Abby Blake (.470, 10 HR, 40 RBI).
Cabell Midland - the lone Class AAA team to defeat Hurricane this season - was led by senior catcher Ginny Hardin, who batted .470 and drove in 28 runs while boasting a perfect fielding percentage for the season. In addition to Hardin, the Knights placed senior pitcher MiKayla McIntosh (13-3, 119K) and junior infielder Kirya Kingery (.488, 4 3B, 25 SB) on the team.
Parkersburg, Riverside and Ripley both had two selections on the first team.
The Big Reds were represented by senior infielder Kacee Roberts (.526, 11 HR, 38 RBI) and freshman catcher Emily Allen (.520, 6 HR, 23 RBI), who was the lone freshman first-team honoree.
Riverside's duo was a pair of seniors: utility player Gracie Donato (.515, 7 HR, 31 RBI) and outfielder Madison Ramirez (.500, 6 HR, 27 RBI).
Ripley's two honorees were utility player Paige Swisher (.566, 13 2B, .977 fielding) and junior outfielder Cassidy Young (.408, 11 HR).
George Washington sophomore pitcher Brianna McCown (16-5, 1.40 ERA; 4 HR, 35 RBI) was the only first-team representative for the Region III champions while Jefferson senior utility player Karra Smith (.500, 5 HR, 36 RBI) rounded out the first team.
Buckhannon-Upshur junior infielder Allie Robinson was named captain of the second team.
Joining Robinson on the infield was Hedgesville junior Miranda Payne, Washington junior Kylie Condon, Cabell Midland freshman Rielly Lucas and George Washington junior Emma Groe.
Groe was one of three Patriots on the second team. Others included junior outfielder Katy Darnell and junior utility player Grace Smith.
Second-team pitchers included Riverside senior Lauren Pauley, St. Albans sophomore Kinsey Hudson and Brooke sophomore Rachel Kazmirski.
In addition to Darnell, other outfielders included Spring Valley senior Faith Spry and John Marshall sophomore Anna Blake.
The three second-team catchers honored were John Marshall senior Maddy Mayle, Washington senior Caitlyn Myers and St. Albans freshman Jillian Holley.
In addition to Smith, second-team utility players included Parkersburg junior Lexi Summers, Greenbrier East junior McKenzie Little and St. Albans freshman Gracie Payne.
Huntington High's Jade Fleeman received special honorable mention recognition along with Taylor McCray and Zoey Dunlap from Hurricane, Mikayla Ferguson and Gracie Hightower of Cabell Midland and Haleigh Kuhn from Spring Valley. Honorable mention selections included Sydney Chapman from Cabell Midland, Lindsey Phares of Hurricane and Bailey Adkins from Spring Valley.