SYRACUSE – The Wawasee softball team can do an awful lot of things well on a diamond.
The Warriors showcased their ability to play small ball Wednesday night in a big way.
Host Wawasee bunted its way past rival Warsaw 5-2 for a Northern Lakes Conference victory.
The Warriors, who checked in at No. 7 in the latest Class 3-A poll, improve to 15-3 overall and push their league-leading conference mark to 8-0. Warsaw falls to 5-8 overall and goes to 4-4 in conference play.
Wawasee used four straight bunts from the top four hitters in its loaded lineup to ignite a three-run third inning. The hosts put the pressure on the Tiger defense, which resulted in a pair of throwing errors in the key frame. The Warriors scored three runs off of bunts by Ale Brito, Kayla White and Madie Wilson to stretch their lead to 5-0.
“We’re going to put pressure on people and right now we just aren’t getting that big hit when we need it,” said Wawasee coach Mike Barger. “So I decided in the third to move runners and put pressure on them. They made a couple of mistakes and we did a good job capitalizing on those.
“We got the two runs tonight in the first I thought that we would get rolling. We step on the gas, but then we let up and keep letting teams back in it. We just need someone to step up and get that big hit for us. We have to bring our mental level up at the plate.”
The Warriors, who beat Warsaw 6-1 back on April 17, scored a pair in the first frame. The hosts got RBI groundouts from Wilson and cleanup hitter Meghan Fretz for the 2-0 lead. The runs came after speedy leadoff hitter Brito reached on an infield single and White put down a sacrifice bunt that resulted in a Warsaw throwing error.
Warsaw got single runs in the fourth and sixth frames. Lauren Shaffner drove in both tallies for the Tigers with an RBI single in the fourth and a sacrifice fly in the sixth.
Both pitchers, senior Fretz and sophomore Courtney Chookie of Warsaw, were strong. Fretz, who threw a three-hitter with 10 strikeouts in the first meeting versus Warsaw this season, allowed four hits. She struck out six and walked one. Chookie allowed just five hits and had four strikeouts and no walks. She allowed just one earned run.
Warsaw coach Kevin Dishman, who celebrated a birthday Wednesday, saw his team play a very solid game. The Tigers after striking out three times looking in the first inning put up a strong effort at the dish against the top hurler in the league in Fretz.
“I was pleased with our at-bats tonight,” said Dishman. “We had a good approach, had some good swings, made some good contact and did not strike out a lot against the top strikeout pitcher in the conference. Hitting the ball is something that we have really stressed this year and the girls have really improved there.
“I thought that our seniors really stepped up tonight and have all year for us. And our younger girls are coming on too. I’m happy with where we are at right now.
“Courtney Chookie probably threw her best game of the season tonight against a good hitting team. She hit her spots and did a great job for us.”
Barger is just waiting for everything to click for his talent-laden, experienced team.
“We have nine seniors who have been here before,” noted the first-year coach of the Warriors. “When we get it all figured out, we are going to be a dangerous team.”
Five different Warriors, seniors Brito, Wilson and Hannah Haines, junior Aubrey Kuhn and sophomore Grace Anne Kerlin, each had a single. Wilson had two RBI for the winners.
Freshman Izzy Dittmar led Warsaw with two hits, including a double. Shaffner and Abby Glass, two of six seniors, each had one hit for the Tigers.
Wawasee hosts Elkhart Memorial and Warsaw hosts Goshen in NLC action Friday night.