By Brad Fauber
FRONT ROYAL -- Warren County managed just two hits in Wednesday's softball matchup with visiting Luray, but what little offense the Wildcats could muster was plenty for starting pitcher Paige McLachlan and the rest of the Warren County defense.
McLachlan held Luray to just one run on six hits on Wednesday, and the Wildcats were able to take advantage of some Luray miscues to snatch a 3-1 nondistrict win.
McLachlan was able to work out of several jams, including a rough first inning, and the sophomore was aided by another outstanding performance in the field by Warren County's defense, which has not committed an error in the last 24 innings.
"It's definitely a lot easier pitching knowing that I have a good defense behind me to back me up," McLachlan, who also had nine strikeouts, said. "It makes me feel a lot better because I don't feel like I have to strike out every batter."
McLachlan, who has pitched every inning for Warren County (4-1) this season, has now allowed just one run in the last three games.
Wednesday's outing began in a rather painful way for the Wildcats' ace, who found herself in some trouble in the top of the first inning.
After inducing a game-opening groundout, McLachlan issued one of her three walks to the Bulldogs' No. 2 hitter and starting pitcher Emily Speaks, which was immediately followed by a single by freshman Katie Keyser.
Luray's cleanup hitter, Danyelle McGrady, then ripped an 0-1 offering right back at McLachlan, who was struck in the shin by the line drive. McLachlan was unable to field the ball in time to get McGrady at first, and the Wildcats found themselves facing the bases loaded with just one out.
"It hurt a little bit but I always try to focus on the pain after the game," McLachlan said.
McLachlan quickly got ahead of Luray's Savannah Hall 0-2 in the following at-bat, but Hall was able to work a walk to give the Bulldogs an early 1-0 lead.
The Wildcats were able to limit the damage, as McLachlan induced a pop out and strikeout to get out of the inning.
"[McLachlan] did a really good job tonight of bearing down when she had to," Wildcats coach Justin Stock said. "I think the key was the first inning -- bases loaded and one out and we were able to just get away with only one run."
Luray's lead didn't last long, as Warren County responded with a pair of runs in the bottom of the first.
The runs came in a rather bizarre fashion as Wildcats freshman Emma Wright and senior Ariel Asher both came around to score on a Luray throwing error following Asher's walk.
Wright, who led off the inning with a walk of her own, took off for second on the 3-2 pitch -- called ball four by the umpire -- to Asher, which drew a throw from the Bulldogs' catcher. The throw skipped into the outfield and rolled all of the way to the fence in centerfield, allowing both Warren County runners to score easily.
"You see new things at the ballpark all the time," Stock said. "I've never seen anybody score on a walk."
That was all the offensive support McLachlan would need, as she shut the Bulldogs down over the final six innings.
Luray stranded a total of six runners on Wednesday, including five in scoring position.
"We couldn't capitalize," Luray coach Charlie Turner said. "We couldn't get the timely hit when we needed like they did. They got a couple of hits, and they capitalized on a couple mistakes from us."
The Bulldogs (0-3) also committed three errors in the contest and issued five walks in the game.
Warren County was able to manufacture an insurance run in the bottom of the fifth inning when freshman Nikki Green (1-for-2, run scored) led off the frame with a single and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Wright.
"I was really pleased in the fifth inning to come away with a run with our No. 7, 8 and 9 coming up," Stock said. "We get a sac bunt down, we get a walk and get a key sacrifice hit, so that was really big to kind of ease some of that pressure."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or email@example.com