Warriors’ bats heat up against Eagles

STEPHENS CITY — After struggling against some tough competition in its first two games of the season, Sherando’s softball team saw its bats heat up against Clarke County on a cold, blustery evening on Monday.

The Warriors erupted for 15 hits and took advantage of some shaky Clarke County defense en route to a 14-4 non-district win that ended in six innings due to the mercy rule.

Sherando scored at least two runs in every inning but the sixth, when it needed only one run to end the game an inning early.

“We started the schedule off with a couple of pretty difficult teams to play in Turner Ashby and Woodgrove and their pitching was a little bit further ahead than our bats were at that point in the season,” said Warriors coach Clarence Smith, whose team picked up its first win of the season on Monday. “We’ve got a few practices under our belts. We were able to get outside a couple more times. … We have coach [Frank] Paige, who is on staff to sort of specialize with our offensive game, and we saw contributions up and down our lineup tonight.”

Four different batters recorded at least two hits for Sherando (1-2) in the victory, including seniors Carly Nixon and Katie Manson. Nixon went 4-for-4 with four runs scored and three stolen bases from the leadoff spot to set the table for a huge day at the plate for Manson, who was 4-for-4 with an inside the park home run and five RBIs while batting second in the lineup.

“Carly is just such a weapon at the top. Even when her bat’s going bad she can be such an offensive force because of her short-ball game and then she gets on base and she’s stealing bases,” Smith said. “… And then of course you have Katie back there who always seems to find the sweet spot of the bat with every swing that she puts on.”

Clarke County (2-4) scored a run in the top of the first inning against Sherando starting pitcher Hannah Lockhart on a walk and two Warriors errors, but Sherando answered right back in the bottom of the first.

Nixon led off with a bunt single, and Manson scorched a grounder up the middle that got past the outstretched glove of Eagles center fielder Morgan Withers, allowing Nixon and Manson to come all the way around to score to give the Warriors a 2-1 lead.

“I was pumped,” Manson said. “I got a little anxious at first. … I was like, ‘Katie, you’ve got to take a deep breath. Just do your thing up there, don’t try to push it too much.’ Just an easy swing and it goes.”

Sherando added three more runs in the second inning during a two-out rally after Sara Stickman started the inning with a leadoff double. Warriors No. 9 hitter Nicole Marshall (2-for-4, 3 RBIs) scored Stickman with a two-out single, and an Eagles error and an RBI single by Manson gave the Warriors a 5-1 lead.

The Warriors added three runs in the third inning on three Clarke County errors and another RBI single by Marshall, and they countered Clarke County’s two-run double by Haley Haun in the top of the fourth inning with three more runs in the bottom of the frame. Manson, Heidi Brown and Lexi Schlag (2-for-3) had RBI hits in the fourth to give Sherando an 11-3 lead.

Clarke County scored a run in the fifth, only to see Sherando answer with two runs of its own in the bottom of the inning. The Warriors ended the game early when Madison Clark led off the bottom of the sixth with a triple and scored on Marshall’s squeeze bunt.

The Eagles finished the game with six errors in the field and stranded a total of eight baserunners. Clarke County coach Susan Grubbs said the Eagles need to be more aggressive at the plate than they were on Monday.

“We’ve just got to get that key hit and right now it’s not seeming like we’re getting that,” she said.

Lockhart pitched five innings for the Warriors and allowed four runs (three earned) on five hits, two walks and a hit batter while striking out four. The senior right-hander stranded five Clarke County runners in scoring position and limited the Eagles to a run in the fifth after they loaded the bases with two outs.

Marissa Webb pitched a scoreless top of the sixth for Sherando.

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com