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By Tommy Keeler Jr. - firstname.lastname@example.org
NOKESVILLE -- Senior Paige Partlowe can still remember her freshman season, when Warren County didn't win a game. Seeing how far she and her teammates have come made things even sweeter on Thursday.
Nicole King threw a one-hitter and the Wildcats beat Brentsville, 2-0, in the Evergreen District tournament final. The Wildcats have clinched their first Region II berth since 1991. Warren County will host either Broad Run or Loudoun County on Monday.
"Oh my goodness. I never thought we would do this," Partlowe said. "It's almost indescribable."
The Wildcats have been solid all season, finishing third in a very tough district. The last three games, the team has turned things up a notch. The Wildcats beat Brentsville, the regular-season champion, in the final game of the regular season and then beat second-seeded Fauquier in the tournament semifinals on Tuesday.
Warren County hasn't committed an error in the three games. Having a strong defense behind her has helped King elevate her game even more.
"It gives me confidence in knowing I don't have to strike everybody out," King said of her team's defense.
King didn't need a lot of defense against the Tigers, as she struck out 10. Brentsville reached second base only twice in the game.
The Wildcats' offense has also come to life in recent games. Warren County had six hits in the game and had opportunities to score even more runs than they did.
Warren County (15-6) scored a run in the top of third. Sara Flouhouse led off with a bunt single. Ariel Asher then reached on an error. The runners moved up a base on a wild pitch. One out later, freshman Dominique Grady hit a sacrifice fly to score Flouhouse.
"I was just thinking I don't want to get out," Grady said of her at-bat. "I didn't want to let anyone down."
Grady and fellow freshman Kacie Stacks were just called up from the JV squad at the end of the season, and Warren County coach Justin Stock said they have given the offense a boost. Grady played one game for the Wildcats early in the season and hit a home run.
In the sixth inning, Grady came up big again. Stacks singled with one out. She then stole second and third. Grady's groundout RBI gave the Wildcats a 2-0 lead.
That was more than enough for King. Brentsville's only hit came on a single by Jess Murphy in the bottom of the fifth.
Now that they have a tournament trophy, the Wildcats will have even more confidence as they head into regionals.
"It's so exciting," Partlowe said. "We're looking forward to seeing new teams and playing new people."