ELKHART – Warsaw softball coach Kevin Dishman was not about to tip his hand completely versus Elkhart Central Tuesday night.
Not with a sectional showdown with the Blue Blazers coming up next Monday.
That meant that the Tiger skipper was all about doing some experimenting with his lineup and personnel in this one.
Dishman, in the end, saw his Warsaw squad end up on the short end of a 9-5 loss to the host Blue Blazers in the non-conference matchup.
The Tigers, who led 5-0 Tuesday, drop to 8-13 on the season. Central improves to 9-14. The pair will meet on May 21 in a first-round game of the Class 4-A Elkhart Memorial Sectional at approximately 7:30 p.m.
“You don’t want to show too much tonight, but you still want to compete,” noted Dishman. “I wanted to see what I had tonight. I’ve been messing with our lineup. We have a couple of players who are hot right now and a couple who aren’t hitting. I just wanted to see some different things.”
Dishman saw Kennedy Tennant give him some outstanding work in the circle. The junior worked three strong innings as the starter after going the distance in an 8-2 loss to Concord, the co-leader in the NLC, Monday night. Tennant allowed no runs on two hits with two strikeouts and one walk.
“Kennedy did a great job for us tonight,” said Dishman. “Courtney (No. 1 pitcher Courtney Chookie) has been ill this week.”
The Tigers took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on an RBI double by freshman Lindsey Bradley. Warsaw made it 4-0 in the third frame on back-to-back RBI singles by Lindsey Bradley and sophomore Izzy Dittmar and and a fielder’s choice from junior Adara Frey.
Warsaw extended its lead to 5-0 in the fourth inning on an RBI single by Lindsey Bradley.
The Blue Blazers cut the lead to 5-4 in the home half of the fourth frame. The hosts got an RBI single from junior Abbie Tyler and a three-run triple by senior Katey Gaff.
Central took the lead in the fifth frame as cleanup hitter Tyler crushed a three-run homer to right field to make it 7-5. The hosts scored two more in the sixth on a couple of Warsaw errors on tough plays and an RBI single by senior Lilly Fann.
Warsaw ace Courtney Chookie pitched the final three innings for the Tigers. Central went with sophomore Riley Dehaven in the circle the entire game, opting not to throw ace Fann at all.
The Tigers got a great defensive play in the first inning from Madison Lane. The junior right fielder made a fine stab on a line shot and fired a strike to second to double off a runner for an inning-ending double play.
“I like how Madison Lane played in right field for us tonight,” remarked Dishman. “We moved our normal rightfieder (Carmen Albertson) to center tonight. We made some good defensive plays at times tonight.”
Dishman likes how the sectional sets up for his team as favorites Concord and Northridge (the defending sectional champion) drew the byes and play each other in a semifinal. The Warsaw-Central winner will face either Goshen or Elkhart Memorial in a semifinal game. The Tigers are 0-2 versus Goshen this year and have beaten Memorial once with another game versus the Crimson Chargers set for Thursday night. Warsaw is 0-4 combined versus Concord and Northridge.
“The sectional sets up about as good as we can ask for,” said Dishman. “There are four teams who are all pretty equal on our side and those games could go any way.
“The last couple of weeks we have played some excellent games, including with Northridge last week. It always comes down to defense for us. Our girls know that. That’s what we have talked about since the first day of practice. We need to make the plays defensively next week in the sectional. If we do that, we will be in good shape.”
Lindsey Bradley and Katie Anderson each had three hits to lead the 11-hit attack for the Tigers. Carmen Albertson had two hits for Warsaw.
Warsaw won the junior varsity game 12-8 Tuesday night.
Warsaw plays at Memorial Thursday, at Tippecanoe Valley Friday and hosts Manchester Saturday.
Central will host LaPorte Thursday and play at St. Joseph (Michigan) on Friday night.