Lincoln County forces deciding game in softball sectional
HURRICANE - Whenever Brooke West takes the circle, Lincoln County always feels as if it has a chance.
The Panthers took advantage of having their security blanket Wednesday evening as West held down Hurricane's powerful lineup just enough to claim a 7-5 victory and stave off elimination in the Class AAA Region 4 Section 3 sectional tournament. A boisterous crowd of about 400 attended the matchup of state-ranked teams at Hurricane High School.
Lincoln County (23-7), which finished fourth in the final state sportswriters' poll, will visit No. 3 Hurricane (27-6) one more time at 6 p.m. today in the double-elimination format with the winner advancing to next week's regional semifinals. The Redskins pummeled the Panthers 9-2 in Tuesday's sectional opener.
West kept the Redskins off-balance Wednesday with an array of pitches, holding their top three hitters hitless in 11 combined at-bats after they pounded out seven hits Tuesday. After Hurricane knotted the game at 4-all in the fourth inning, she only surrendered one more run the rest of the way. West scattered seven hits and five runs (four earned) with three strikeouts and three walks in a 109-pitch effort.
"I'll take Brooke West in any situation and she'll typically come through,'' said Lincoln County coach Rod Hoover. "Brooke got ahead in the count a lot and forced them to hit her pitch. If you watch Brooke pitch enough, her demeanor doesn't change, good or bad. I'm just proud of the job Brooke did. Took care of business.''
The Redskins pulled to within 7-5 in the bottom of the seventh on Nicole Pierson's run-scoring fielder's choice. Pierson dropped a bunt down the first-base line that West fielded and threw home to try to nab Amber Null, but Null beat the throw.
West induced Cassi Sargent to line out softly to shortstop, then fielded a grounder and threw out Courtney Rogers to end the game. Rogers belted a two-run home run earlier and finished 3 for 4 with two RBIs.
West also forced the Redskins into two double plays, the second helping her out of the fourth after Hurricane plated four runs to tie it at 4-all with only one out. Null lined sharply to second baseman Sarah Pennington who threw to first baseman Megan Tully to get Maddie Hebb, who strayed too far off the bag.
"We were just ready to go,'' said West. "We worked hard and made plays. Our bats came alive and we didn't have as many errors.
"I threw a lot of curveballs inside to kind of check them up and make them ground out. My defense worked really well and I was proud of them. We have to have a lot of confidence.''
The Panthers took the lead for good in the top of the fifth as Morgan Hutchison led off with a single and scored when Pierson dropped a routine fly ball with none out for a 5-4 advantage. Amy Parsons' run-scoring groundout put Lincoln County ahead 6-4. Hutchison added a two-out, infield RBI single in the top of the sixth as the Panthers went up 7-4.
Hurricane committed five errors, which led to four unearned runs.
"We were sloppy,'' said Redskins coach Josh Caldwell. "We made mistakes we hadn't made all year. We can't make those tomorrow and expect to win. I don't think we've lost back-to-back games all year, so that's a good thing. We should be fine.''
Hutchison finished 3 for 3 with a solo round-tripper, two RBIs and two runs scored from the leadoff position while Parsons tripled and knocked in two runs. Lincoln County's Brandi Isaacs singled and drove in a run with a sacrifice fly and Faith Huffman doubled.
Addie Fullen doubled in a run for Hurricane while Emily Davis laced an RBI single.
"It's like a heavyweight bout,'' Hoover said. "They knocked us out once and we knocked them out. Let's go again.''
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4811.