CRAWLEY, W.Va. (WVDN) – When people look back on the start Greenbrier West is off to in the 2023 softball season, they may just look at the number of wins and move on. Some will look deeper, though, and they’ll take note of the Cavaliers ability to put big-time opponents away. Holding them scoreless certainly helps the cause, and the Cavaliers had pitched four shutouts in six games entering the home matchup with Nicholas County.
Grizzly head coach Marie Shaffer is a respected skipper in the West Virginia high school softball world. Her Grizzlies rolled into Crawley with a 2-1 record, their only loss a 2-0 setback at Class AA power Independence. Cavalier head coach Tony Hinkle knew his young but talented squad would be put to the test by Nicholas County, and he wouldn’t be wrong.
Freshman Brilee Redden has had a magical start to her high school pitching career. In 19 innings pitched, Redden has struck out 42 batters while only allowing 7 hits and issuing a mere 8 walks. Her ERA is a miniscule .737. The Cavaliers would need every strike Redden could muster to stifle the Grizzly attack after Nicholas managed 21 runs over their two-game winning streak.
Redden asserted herself early, striking out the leadoff hitter Skyler Nash, as well as senior Kylie McKinney. Ashley Stephenson responded with a sharp single to right field, but Redden squashed the Grizzly hopes with a K of cleanup hitter Cambria Neal.
Greenbrier West would answer by jumping out to the early lead. Brooke Patterson led off with a walk and advanced to second on a sharp grounder by Redden. Preslee Treadway hit a small pop fly to Stephenson at first, but Emma Ames delivered an RBI-single to centerfield that allowed Redden to settle in at third base. Nash snuffed out any further scoring opportunities when she struck out Julia Herndon and Maddie Fields, but the Cavaliers had struck first and led 1-0 heading into the second.
Redden would remain in control in the second inning, setting down Abigail Hillary in three pitches. Nash would strike out, as well but reached base on a dropped third strike. Kelsi Walker laid down a bunt and stretched it into a single, giving the Grizzlies two on with only one out. Redden went to work on Mackenzie Hanshaw. As Hanshaw reached a 1-2 count, the Grizzlies advanced on a double steal to put both runners in scoring position. Redden won the matchup and struck out the sophomore, then mowed down Kylee Rapp after falling behind 2-0 to end the Nicholas County scoring threat.
Nash would prove equally effective in the circle in the bottom of the second. Brooklyn Adkins registered the only West base hit, as Nash struck out Desteney Walker, induced a Hannah Sweet ground ball out to third and struck out Patterson to end the inning.
Redden kept pace in the top of the third, adding two more Ks to her stat line while getting Stephenson to ground out to Ames.
The Cavaliers would add an insurance run in the top of the third in what was quickly developing into a pitchers’ battle. Redden flew out, but Treadway fought off three foul balls before lacing a single into centerfield. Ames advanced Treadway with a sacrifice bunt, and Herndon drove her home with a sharp hit to the right side. The extra run loomed large with Redden tossing a gem. Nash would get Fields to strike out to end the inning and keep things within reach at 2-0.
The Greenbrier West defense was proving to be as equally stifling as their pitching. The top of the fourth inning saw Grizzlies fly out to Ames and Treadway. Kyndall Taylor ranged into foul territory and secured the third out on a pop fly, preserving the Cavalier shutout through three and a half innings.
Once again, Nash responded, and her defense flashed some leather as well. Neal fielded a ground ball from Desteney Walker for out number one. Nash then fielded grounders from both Adkins and Sweet to sit the Cavaliers down in order.
Redden struck out Walker to lead off the fifth, and coach Shaffer decided to employ a new tactic. Bethany Butcher pinch hit for Hanshaw and reached first on a bunt. Rapp laid down a second bunt, but Redden fielded the ball and threw her out on a fielder’s choice. Myah Scott stepped in and battled Redden by fouling off six straight pitches. In the end, Redden won, when Scott swung and missed on the seventh pitch of the at-bat.
Neal came in to relieve Nash, although the senior had four strikeouts to her credit and had largely limited the Cavalier attack. Neal proceeded to strike out the first two batters she faced in Patterson and Redden. Treadway tagged Neal for a single to left field, but Hillary settled under an Ames flyball for the third out.
Once again, the West defenders backed up the pitching with some stellar play. Desteney Walker threw out both McKinney and Stephenson, before Neal grounded out to Redden. West was solidly holding on to their 2-0 lead.
Herndon led off the bottom of the sixth with a grounder to the left side but her time on the basepath would be short-lived, when she was caught stealing at second. Michaela Alley checked in for Fields but went down on three straight strikes. Desteney Walker flew out to left field, and the game came down to the top of the seventh inning.
Redden made quick work of Hillary on three swinging strikes. Nash poked a ground ball to the left side that Treadway scooped up and threw to first for the second out. Down to their final out, Nicholas County stayed alive, when Kelsi Walker roped a ball to right field that couldn’t be handled. The three-base error put a runner 60-feet away, and Bethany began the at-bat with a 2-0 count. Redden recovered with a called first strike then blew two fastballs past Bethany to put an exclamation point on the win.
Redden struck out 13 Grizzly batters to run her season total to 55. Treadway and Herndon both went 2-3 at the plate, with Herndon and Ames each driving in a run. The Nicholas County duo of Nash and Neal struck out seven Cavaliers but allowed seven hits. Nash allowed two earned runs.
Greenbrier West improved to 7-0 with a Friday doubleheader against Charleston Catholic at the University of Charleston Softball Field looming as their remaining test.
NC: 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 – 0 3 0
GW: 1 0 1 0 0 0 x – 2 7 1
NC: Nash, Neal and McKinney. GW: Redden and Herndon. WP- Redden. LP – Nash. NC: Stephenson 1-3; Walker 1-3; Bethany 1-2. GW: Treadway 2-3; Herndon 2-3, RBI; Ames 1-3, RBI; Redden 1-3; Adkins 1-2.