MIDDLEBURY – The Warsaw softball team didn’t pull off the upset of league leader Northridge Friday night.
The Tigers sure did make things interesting though right up until the end versus the highly-regarded Raiders.
Northridge, led by ace Haley Nixon, posted a 4-1 win over Warsaw in the Northern Lakes Conference tussle.
Junior pitcher Nixon fanned 11 Tiger hitters in the league win, including Sid Hernandez for the final out of the game with the bases loaded. The right-hander had no walks.
The Class 4-A No. 7 Raiders improve to 16-1 overall and 12-0 in NLC play. Warsaw drops to 7-12 overall and 7-5 in league action.
Warsaw, which was one-hit by Nixon in a 10-0 loss in five innings at home on April 25, collected five hits Friday night.
The Tigers even dented the scoreboard against the Raider ace. Leadoff hitter Ashley Ousley slammed a 2-2 pitch for a two-out solo homer over the right center field fence in the top of the sixth inning off Nixon.
“We had some decent at bats tonight and put the ball in play,” said Warsaw coach Jim Speicher. “We talked about our approach at the plate against Nixon. I thought we did a better job tonight putting her change up in play.
“We were a little more aggressive tonight. Last time we took too many first pitch strikes against her. With her, the first pitch may be the best pitch you see. You’re not going to get any walks off her. I think she’s walked nine batters.”
Northridge, which slipped past NLC foe Wawasee 5-3 on Wednesday, did their damage early Friday. The hosts plated three runs in the home half of the first inning by staging a two-out rally. Brianne O’Dell and Haley Schrock drew back-to-back walks with two outs and then Nixon delivered with a two-run double to right center. Taylor Long then smacked an RBI single to score Nixon to make it 3-0.
Nixon, the No. 5 hitter in the Northridge lineup, went 3-3 with a two-run homer and three RBI in the earlier win over the Tigers.
Nixon, who is 16-1 in the circle this spring, retired the first 11 Tiger hitters. Kaleigh Speicher, the No. 3 hitter for the Tigers, then dropped a two-out single into centerfield with two outs in the fourth inning to break up the perfect game.
Northridge, which went 30-2 last season and lost in the semi state championship game, added a run in the fifth frame. Nixon and Long each singled with two outs and then an infield single by Grace Gravengoed and a throwing error by Warsaw on the play enabled the Raiders to make it 4-0.
Warsaw put up a fight until the end. Kayla Snider reached on an infield single with one out in the seventh. Karly Jones then singled and following a strikeout, Kara Dishman singled to load the bases before Nixon fanned No. 8 hitter Hernandez.
Northridge beat the Tigers 12-2 and 13-1 in NLC play in 2012. The Raiders then posted a 6-1 win in a sectional semifinal game.
Junior Whitney Sleeth went the distance in the circle for Warsaw. She allowed just six hits with no strikeouts and four walks. Kaleigh Speicher had pitched versus the Raiders in the first game this season.
“I’m really proud of how Whitney pitched,” said coach Speicher. “She was wild enough to be effective tonight. I’m trying to get her some experience and it’s one less time they will see Kaleigh if we play them in the sectional and I decide to pitch her.
“Our defense played better tonight. When we catch and throw the ball, we can compete with anyone. I like where we are at right now. We have seven games left to improve and get ready for the sectional.”
Nixon led the Raiders with two hits and a pair of runs scored.
Northridge honored its two seniors, twin sisters Madison and Haley Schrock, prior to the game. The outstanding duo, shortstop Madison and first baseman Haley, will both play collegiately at Bowling Green.
Warsaw hosts its own Tiger Tournament Saturday. The Tigers play Homestead at 9 a.m., while Peru faces Concordia at the same time. The winners then meet at 11 a.m. in the title game with the losers facing off in the consolation contest at the same time.
Northridge plays in the Adams Eagle Classic Saturday at the Belleville Complex in South Bend.