By Jeff Nations
FRONT ROYAL -- Warren County softball coach Justin Stock had some pointed advice for Wildcats starting pitcher Paige McLachlan on Thursday night.
After McLachlan nibbled a bit with her pitches in the first inning against visiting Bull Run District rival George Mason and gave up a pair of walks and eventually a run, Stock pulled his pitcher aside for a quick chat.
"I told her she had to throw strikes tonight," Stock said. "The only way we were going to lose was if she gave them some free base runners and after that first inning I think she realized that if she threw strikes, she'd be fine."
McLachlan was just fine, rarely surrendering a hard-hit ball in the Wildcats' 4-2 victory. McLachlan struck out 14 batters in the win, and allowed just one more walk after that shaky first inning.
The Mustangs did grab a brief lead in the top of the first on an RBI single by Julia Ferris, but Warren County (3-2, 3-1 Bull Run) got that run right back with some ultra-aggressive base running. Arianna Smoot ignited the one-out rally by beating out a bunt for a hit, then came home all the way from first on McLachlan's single to center field.
"Their outfield was playing very, very deep and she's very fast," Stock said of Smoot. "When I saw the ball hit out there, I didn't even hesitate that she was going to be going home. It was a normal, deep ground ball single to the outfield and she didn't even slow down.
"I've told her she's got that speed and she gets in another gear. She's aggressive and young -- sometimes a little overaggressive, but it helped us out tonight."
Warren County kept up the pressure against the Mustangs in the third inning as Amalia Abrego reached on an error to lead off the inning and later scored on a wild pitch by Ferris. Emma Wright also got aboard on an error and eventually scored on another.
"We made them make the plays," Stock said.
In the fifth, the Wildcats used a different tactic to create offense. Wright led off with a single, then stole second. She moved to third on another wild pitch, then scored on McLachlan's RBI single.
George Mason (3-4, 1-3 Bull Run) stirred in the top of the seventh. Te'a Abbracciamento beat out a bunt for a single and Kayleigh Heather followed with a double to put runners on second and third with one out. Emily Lubnow followed with a safety squeeze to score a run, but McLachlan ended it right there by striking out Micaela Albright to close out the game.
Abbracciamento had two hits to lead the Mustangs.
McLachlan was 3-for-3 with two RBIs for the Wildcats.
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or email@example.com>