By Jeff Nations
FRONT ROYAL --Warren County's Paige McLachlan wasn't feeling her best on Tuesday.
Something in the air, pollen probably, had stolen her voice and sapped her energy. That didn't stop McLachlan from starting at her customary spot in the pitching circle, and it certainly didn't prevent her from batting cleanup for the Wildcats against Bull Run District rival Strasburg.
So maybe she didn't duplicate her incredible performance from Monday against Manassas Park -- six doubles in a doubleheader, plus her first career no-hitter in the nightcap as the Wildcats got the sweep.
McLachlan wasn't otherworldly against the Rams, just good. The junior went 3-for-3 -- with just one double -- and pitched a complete game as Warren County battled for a 6-2 victory.
"My defense really helped me out a lot today," said a visibly worn-out McLachlan afterward.
That, and a few costly mistakes by Strasburg (6-7, 4-6 Bull Run).
Trailing 3-1 the top of the fifth inning, the Rams had a chance to cut that deficit to just one run when Carey Scott lofted a fly ball to center field for a surefire sacrifice fly RBI with runners on second and third. Instead, it turned into a bizarre inning-ending double play. Lexi Schlag didn't tag at second, and Emily Alexander did tag but left too early at third.
"It was just a mental mistake," Strasburg coach Suzanne Mathias said. "I can't argue it. I was standing right there."
Warren County coach Justin Stock knows that sequence played a major role in the outcome.
"That was a big momentum changer," Stock said. "They could have made it 3-2, and even if we get out of the inning it would have made it closer."
Whether that missed opportunity had any carry-over effect is debatable, but in the bottom of the inning Strasburg's defense suddenly went to pieces. The Rams committed all three of their errors in that frame as the Wildcats pushed three runs across.
McLachlan got it started with a one-out single, then scored on the second straight error by the Rams. The third error, on Autumn Troxell's ground ball to short, brought in two more runs.
"I've said all along, if we can wipe out the errors we're going to surprise some people," Mathias said.
The Rams escaped further trouble by pulling off a nifty 5-3-2 double play on Dallas Crawford's bunt to nab Troxell trying to score for the final out.
Strasburg got one run back in the sixth on Cortney McDonald's RBI single, the last of five hits allowed by McLachlan. The right-hander finished with six strikeouts and walked three. Warren County backed McLachlan with flawless defense.
The Rams opened the scoring without a hit in the top of the first. Schlag (2-for-3) drew a leadoff walk, then stole second and third base before scoring one out later on a wild pitch.
Stock thought that got his team's attention, which might have been a good thing considering an earlier 13-2 win over Strasburg on April 3 might have had the Wildcats overlooking the Rams.
"I knew today was going to be a little tougher than what some of the kids thought it would be," Stock said. "Strasburg's been playing everybody tough."
Warren County (9-3, 7-2 Bull Run) got that run right back in the bottom of the first on Cassie Green's RBI double off Katie Smoot, then added another on Brooke Post's RBI single.
McLachlan's third-inning double plated Green for another run, ending Smoot's day. The Rams got solid relief from Carey Scott, who allowed only the three unearned runs off three hits over the final four innings.
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or email@example.com>