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By Danny Nolan - firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- It was supposed to be a pitchers duel Monday night between Warren County and Broad Run, but defense proved to be the difference maker.
The Spartans took advantage of a variety of defensive mishaps by the Wildcats and took the victory, 5-1, in the first round of the Region II tournament.
The game started off with a bang. Warren County's Nicole King gave up two early hits -- one of which resulted in an unearned run after an errant throw to first -- and had recorded only one out after three batters. King then settled down, striking out the next six batters she faced and retiring eight-straight batters overall.
The Wildcats responded in the bottom of the first inning. Ariel Asher led off with a single, but after a wild throw by the second baseman she jogged over to second. Asher then proceeded to steal third during the next at-bat, inducing a poor throw by the catcher in the process that allowed Asher to slide into home. In the fourth inning, Warren County looked like they would score again. With two outs and a player on second, Valery Eller hit a smoking line drive toward the gap, but the Broad Run shortstop was able to make the grab and end the inning.
Though the first inning was erratic, both starting pitchers settled down nicely. King and Ashley Ferrara each gave up only one more hit over the next three innings, but the Wildcats' luck changed in the fifth.
Broad Run's Camille Larrabee smoked a double into the left-center gap that was just out of reach to start the inning. Larrabee then scored after a throwing error by the Wildcats that also put Jennie Himler on second. After two straight fielder's choice outs, McKall Miller hit a shot into center that looked like it would be caught, but Warren County was unable to make the out and two more scored to give the Spartans a 4-1 lead.
King struck out the next batter, but the damage had already been done. The Wildcats had played five innings without allowing an earned run, yet trailed by three runs going into the sixth inning.
Broad Run scored it's first and only earned run of the afternoon following a Himler single to extend the lead to four. King did her best to keep the team in the ballgame and struck out three batters in the seventh to bring her game total to 15 on the day. When asked about the number of strikeouts she had, King hinted she'd rather get the batter out at the plate than allow the batter to put a ball in play.
"I'm fine with a little bit of contact," King said. "But sometimes strikeouts are the best because then I don't have to worry about anything behind me. Usually our defense is pretty good. Today, we just made some errors."
With one out and a player on second in the seventh, Warren County's Taylor Bass hit a line drive into right field that sent the runner off. The right fielder, however, caught up to the ball and threw it to second to record the double play and secure a Spartan victory.
"We had been playing so well on defense, and we just didn't get the job done today," Warren County coach Justin Stock said. "Obviously, if you only score one run, you're not going to win many ballgames. It's kind of unfortunate. As well as we'd been playing lately, I certainly didn't expect that we'd come out flat like this today."