By Brad Fauber
FRONT ROYAL -- Warren County's softball team was playing a little shorthanded on Friday night against cross-town rival Skyline, but it still managed to get a little payback against the Hawks.
Playing without four seniors -- who are out of town on their senior trip -- the Wildcats rode another solid start by junior pitcher Paige McLachlan and weathered the soggy field conditions for a 7-3 nondistrict road win.
Skyline had beaten the Wildcats in their first meeting back on April 4.
"It was a tough game the first time we played them -- losing to your rivals across town is always pretty tough. But they're definitely a good team and we just managed to get the win tonight," McLachlan said.
"I think we focused maybe a little more this time. We were prepared to beat them this time."
McLachlan did her part on the mound for Warren County on Friday, as she battled through off-and-on rain showers to toss all seven innings while allowing just two hits, one earned run and three walks. She also struck out six.
"One of the big things is figuring out the umpire's zone. He had a fairly consistent low strike. I think we took advantage of that tonight, and getting ahead in the count was one of the big things," Wildcats coach Justin Stock said.
Warren County (4-2) struggled to find the timely base hit against Skyline (7-3), as the Wildcats stranded nine baserunners, including seven in scoring position. But Warren County did execute well in some of its situational hitting and also scored a pair of runs on two wild pitches.
"We did leave some baserunners but we did take opportunities," Stock said. "We hit a little bit better with runners in scoring position. Fairly aggressive on the base paths. They did a pretty good job moving up on wild pitches."
The Wildcats scored a run in the top of the first inning, as sophomore Emma Wright -- an outfielder who filled in at catcher on Friday -- worked a leadoff walk against Hawks starter Carrie Robinson and later scored on an RBI single by junior Autumn Troxell.
Warren County sent four more runs across the plate in the top of the second inning to take a 5-0 lead. Junior Victoria Hamilton led off the frame with a single that glanced off the glove of Skyline second baseman Michala Craig, and Brittany Williamson reached safely on a bunt that was popped up in front of home plate but fell between three Hawks defenders.
A walk to No. 9 hitter Amalia Abrego loaded the bases with no outs, and all three runners advanced a base one out later on a Skyline error that plated Hamilton. McLachlan brought another run home on a groundout to short, and back-to-back wild pitches to Troxell scored Abrego and Arianna Smoot.
Robinson, who lasted 4 1/3 innings before giving way to reliever Hannah Ritter in the fifth inning, struggled with her command against the Wildcats. Robinson did strike out seven batters, but she dealt six walks and threw seven wild pitches to go along with five hits. Only two of her seven runs allowed were earned.
"The pitcher can't pitch from behind in the count ... and you can't put runners on base and not get people out. We didn't execute," Hawks coach Frank Nelson said. "We practice the bunt coverage every day and it just looked like we had never done it before. Give them credit, [the Wildcats] handled the bad weather and they handled the adversity."
Skyline answered with a run in the bottom of the second, as junior Corinna Colton battled through an eight-pitch at-bat against McLachlan before pulling a 1-2 offering over the fence in right field. It was Colton's first career home run.
"I kept fouling balls off, and I knew I was going to mad at myself if I struck out so I just swung and hoped for the best," Colton said.
The Hawks scored two more times in the bottom of the third inning to cut Warren County's lead to 5-3, as Mikala Dawkins plated Robinson on a fielder's choice and Samantha Santmyers drove in Ritter with an RBI groundout.
Warren County padded its lead with a run in the fourth on a sacrifice fly by Troxell (1-for-2, two RBIs) and another in the fifth on a Skyline error.
Ritter pitched the final 2 2/3 innings for Skyline, allowing one hit and striking out three.
"I think everybody kind of picked up their part," Stock said. "I was real pleased defensively, the young kids playing -- a lot of them were out of position tonight and did a great job, made the plays. And Paige threw the ball well. They only had two hits. I was real pleased defensively with how we did."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @BradFauberNVD