VIENNA - The Wheeling Park softball team wasn't expected to make it to the state tournament this year and they knew it.
When the team arrived in Vienna, the Patriots were projected to bow out of the tournament on the very first day.
Wheeling Park’s Marissa Tucker makes contact on a pitch during Thursday’s Class AAA championship game against Hurricane. The Patriots fell, 5-0, but can still hold their heads high about giving Wheeling Park its first Class AAA championship berth in school history.
Park showed courage and determination and did not back down from a single opponent to advance all the way to the Class AAA championship game, a first in the school's history.
Even though the Patriots fell 5-0 to newly-crowned champion Hurricane, the team still held their heads up high knowing that they've proved all their doubters wrong.
''We were underrated,'' Park coach Dee Davis explained. ''JM was suppose to be here. We weren't even supposed to be at state, and here we are playing in the state championship game. We gave it a good run.''
Her players agreed.
''The 80 percent of the people who took the poll said that we wouldn't even be here,'' catcher Ashleigh Sidon said. ''I couldn't be prouder of my team, because, well, we're here playing the game and 50 other teams are sitting at home watching us.''
Those who did watch saw a valiant effort out of the Patriots (21-7) and a dominate performance from the 'Skins, especially out of shortstop Cassi Sargent and pitcher Courtney Rogers.
The pair of sophomores got Hurricane (33-6) going in the third as a Sargent hit rolled all the way to the corner in right field for a triple to clear the way for a Nicole Pierson score.
Rogers then drove Sargent in on a hit into left field to make it 2-0.
The duo was back at it in the seventh as they hit back-to-back doubles to produce two more runs.
Sargent went to work again in the sixth as she hit into a fielder's choice that brought in Haley Byrd for the final run of the day.
''Hurricane is a really, really good team,'' Davis noted. ''They deserve to win. We played our best. We didn't hit as well as we liked, but every girl gave 100 percent effort and I'm proud of them.
''This is wonderful because they got a taste of what it's like to be at the state tournament. They got a chance to play in the championship game. I think next year they know what they have to work for and what the rewards are when they get there.''
Again, her players agreed.
''We have all the potential in the world to (get back here),'' Sidon, an all-tournament honoree, said. ''We have a good group of freshman coming in, and we're going to miss our seniors dearly, but we can play well without them.''
A bold statement, but yet understandable considering the Patriots will only graduate two from the team.
''We're going to have most of our team back next year and that gives me all the confidence in the world that we'll be back here next year,'' pitcher Carly Greer said.
Out of the four tournament games that the junior was in, Greer pitched a total of 19 innings, including all seven in the championship game and also earned a spot on the all-tournament team.
''It gives you a lot of confidence,'' she said. ''It makes you actually believe you have the abilities that you've worked on since basically you were a little girl. It makes it a lot easier going into your senior year.''
A year where the Patriots will not hear a peep from their doubters.