WARSAW – The saying of ‘turning defense into offense’ applied Monday night in Warsaw. The Wawasee softball team found its comfort zone and carried the vibe to a 6-1 win against the Tigers in the Northern Lakes Conference opener for both clubs.
The Lady Warriors were able to plate an early run, use some key defense, then take off against a scrappy Warsaw side. A fielder’s choice in the first gave Wawasee first blood, then a sacrifice fly from Ale Brito put Wawasee up 2-0, but nothing seemed to be getting out of hand.
Warsaw had Abby Glass draw a one-out walk in the fourth, only for Wawasee to turn a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning. That play energized Wawasee in the top half of the fifth, which put separation between the two sides.
Madie Wilson and Graceanne Kerlin both singled to open the frame, and Faith Swihart brought Wilson home with a solid single. After Aubrey Kuhn reached on a single to load the bases, a throwing error by Warsaw pitcher Courtney Chookie brought home another run on a grounder by Brito. A fly ball from Kayla White allowed in another run, moving the score to 5-0, getting Wawasee that comfort they sought for the first hour of the contest.
“When we turned the double play, our momentum started to turn,” said Wawasee head coach Mike Barger. “We were so energized coming off the field it’s like they’ve never turned a double play in their whole life. Then they come in and score three runs. It was 5-0 at that point and then the energy level just disappeared again. I’m trying to get them to energize all through this game. When they are energized, they are dangerous.”
Warsaw would get one back in the sixth, a bomb off the bat of Saylor Bradley to cut the lead to 5-1, but Wawasee got it back in the seventh with Brito drove in Kuhn with a bloop single down the right field line. Brito had three RBI and Kuhn was 3-for-3 with three runs and two stolen bases to lead the Lady Warriors.
Wawasee touched up Chookie for eight hits, but just three of the runs were earned on three Warsaw errors. Chookie didn’t walk or strike out a Wawasee batter.
“I think they are still trying to find themselves,” Barger said of his club. “I’m an Energizer Bunny out here. I’m crazy. I told them to start bringing a little bit of crazy to the game. It’s not that they think they are better yet, but they are still trying to find themselves.
“Every game, they are finding a piece of themself. That’s what I think is coming.”
Meghan Fretz made the opportunities stand up, giving up just three hits and walking one, but keeping Warsaw off balance at the plate with 10 strikeouts. While Warsaw took some aggressive cuts at the dish, notably the Bradley homer, other at-bats had Fretz freeze Tigers with perfect offerings on the corners or with some high cheddar out of the zone.
“We weren’t afraid to attack them,” said Warsaw head coach Kevin Dishman. “They threw the first punch. We got jarred by the first one. Our approaches at the plate were not as aggressive as we wanted them to be. There was some selfishness from the players not attacking that third pitch. We get two strikes and we are afraid to swing at it. There’s a learning curve to it.”
Dishman added on Bradley’s homer, “two strikes and she’s still thinking about hitting the ball. That’s the attitude we want to have. Saylor is doing an excellent job. Last year she hit a home run early in the season, and after that point, she never got a hit the rest of the year. She hit a home run Saturday, and is still hitting the ball. Completely different girl this year, good at bats from her. We have a good hitting team, today we only had three hits, but that being said, we like where we are at, and we are working harder every day to get even better.”
In the JV contest, Wawasee beat Warsaw 13-3. Leading the winners was Bethany Flannery, who had three hits and five RBIs.
Wawasee moves to 7-1 overall while Warsaw drops to 2-3. The Lady Warriors will visit Elkhart Memorial in a league game Wednesday while Warsaw travels to Columbia City for a non-conference tilt at Morsches Park Tuesday night.