By Pat Dailey (For OzarkSportsZone.com)
ROGERSVILLE — Cassidy Combs’ formative playing days in her native California didn’t prepare her for the 15-20 mph gusts of wind she endured in the Class 3 District 4 championship game Saturday.
“It was just hot,” Combs said of playing in the San Diego area until she was in the fifth grade. “I never played in a game in which it was this windy.”
With the wind blowing out at Rogersville, Combs took advantage of the favorable hitting conditions and ripped a pair of home runs in the Lady Wildcats’ 16-1, three-inning win over Seneca.
Combs hit a three-run homer in the first inning and added a two-run shot over the scoreboard beyond left field in the second. It’s her first two-home run game at any level.
“I knew it was going to be windy because I looked at the weather this morning — I was scared it was going to be cold,” Combs said. “I was excited when I got here because I knew everyone would have a good chance at hitting well.”
Both of Combs’ homers were line drives that cleared the fence easily.
“I think those balls would have been out on a normal day, especially the one over the scoreboard,” Rogersville coach Denny McHenry said.
Despite the wind, Combs was determined to keep herself from thinking home run.
“I’ve been focusing on hitting the ball well, instead of hitting it over,” she said. “Anytime you go for a home run, it’s not going to go out. You have to let it happen.”
Likewise, she was happy not to be out in front of slower pitching than she is accustomed to facing.
“I was screaming at myself to stay back on the ball, step later and swing later,” Combs said. “I tell myself to go the opposite field, but usually I pull it.”
Left-handed swinging center fielder Meghan Hager went the opposite way for both her two-run double and two-run single.
“I try to hit to the opposite field no matter what the pitcher’s speed is,” she said.
Hager also rolls up her sleeves no matter the game. Out of character, though, she had her sleeves down for her first at-bat versus Seneca and grounded out. Lesson learned, she was showing off her ‘guns’ with her sleeves up the rest of the day.
“I always roll up my sleeves because I feel they get in the way of my hitting,” Hager said. “I just forgot about it my first at-bat because I was so excited. It’s a little chilly, but I thought to myself, ‘I’m going to be brave, roll up my sleeves and fight the cold’ and I got two hits.”
Winning pitcher Halle Miles held Seneca (4-18) to two hits, while striking out eight and walking one. Miles coped with reduced velocity due to throwing against the wind.
“It was very difficult,” Miles said of having the wind howl at her face. “I would take my time and wait for the wind to settle down. There were some pauses. I was slower than I usually am. I’m not going to blame that on the wind, but maybe I’ll blame it on the wind a little bit.”
Kayla French singled and scored on an RBI-single by Emily Askren for Seneca’s lone run.
Rogersville (27-6) outclassed its three district foes by a combined 46-1 count.
Seneca reached the title tilt by knocking off Ava (18-3) 8-5 in a semifinal Friday.
Rogersville, ranked No. 1 in Class 3, advances to meet Sullivan (18-9) in the quarterfinal round Wednesday. The Lady Wildcats won the teams’ early-season matchup at the Sullivan Tournament 8-4.
Sullivan was last year’s Class 3 runner-up and reached the Class 3 Final Four three of the past four seasons.
“They’re well accustomed to playing at this time of the year,” McHenry said. “It will be two teams that can put the ball in play and two teams that can pitch it. I’m glad we’re playing here and hope the wind calms down a little bit.”