Christian’s Sports Beat: Three-peat
There is a saying in sports when a team wants to make a statement and that is “Leave No Doubt.”
Well, folks, I am here to say that’s exactly what the Hurricane High School softball team did at the Class AAA state tournament last month.
The Redskins left “No Doubt,” outscoring three opponents by a combined 37-3 and taking their third straight title and fourth in five years.
On the last day of school this year, I stopped by Redskins head softball coach Josh Caldwell’s classroom at Hurricane Middle School, where he also serves as its Athletic Director and teaches Social Studies, and asked him about the five-year run.
“It’s really special to win that much in that period,” Caldwell said. “I’m proud of them all; there have been a lot of great kids, a lot of good players. We have always had really good group, a motivated group and kids that work hard.”
This was the ninth season that Caldwell has been at the helm of the Hurricane High School’s softball program.
Over the last five years, Caldwell and his assistant coaches have had to face player changes pretty much every season, but he told me there has been many common denominators with each squad. “They all have had similar characteristics, a lot of good players, good pitching and defense. All four of the teams won the titles with solid hitting up and down the lineup. One thing this year’s team added was speed on the base paths.”
The state title win in May capped a 36-1 season in which Hurricane scored in double figures 20 times and finished with a 23-game winning streak.
Joining Caldwell in his office were three of the talented Redskins: senior outfielder Paige Scruggs, senior pitcher/catcher Katie Adams and freshman pitcher Harlie Vannatter.
Adams, the state player of the year in 2016 and this past season, made it clear to me what the key was to the team’s success.
“The team chemistry that we have made it a lot of fun and winning three championships helps, also. We enjoy playing together,” she said.
Besides being named the state’s top player for two straight years and the Gazette-Mail Kanawha Valley Player of the Year, the Marshall University-bound player was named the 2017 Gatorade West Virginia Softball Player of the Year, going 12-0 as a pitcher, adding a .571 batting average with 20 doubles, seven home runs and 62 RBIs.
In 2016, Adams was the Redskins main hurler, and, this season, that burden was lifted when freshman Vannatter joined the team. The first-year high schooler posted over 20 wins, including all three in the state tournament, and said, “Me being a freshman, I didn’t know what to expect when practice started, but I was accepted right away and that just made me want to work even harder.”
For her efforts, Vannatter was named the Gazette-Mail’s Freshman of the Year and first-team state honors.
For Scruggs, who dove and caught the state tournament’s final out, the three-peat just showed what dedication to the game is all about.
“We work just as hard during the off season as we do during the regular season, from playing on travel teams to just working out with each other and it shows on the field when it counts,” she said.
Scruggs, who will be playing for Morehead State next year, was named to the state’s second team.
One person who saw Hurricane play many times was the Gazette-Mail’s Prep Reporter, Ryan Pritt, who said, “Getting to know them over the past couple of years has perhaps been the most fun part of covering the team. Whether it was dancing in the on-deck circle, coming up with nicknames and creative cheers for each other or constantly supporting each other through slumps and streaks, it was to see a special group of kids gathered to play softball in Hurricane and their success reflects that.”
After winning its third consecutive title, Hurricane moved up to number five in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 National Softball Rankings.
I walked away from my chat with the players and coach with a feeling that this streak isn’t over just yet and, yes, hard work does pay off.
Christian Deiss, 13, of Scott Depot is a student at Hurricane Middle School.