Warren County softball falls to William Monroe

FRONT ROYAL – One night after falling to crosstown rival Skyline in extra innings, Warren County High School’s banged up girls softball team struggled to keep pace with visiting William Monroe Friday night.

The Dragons erupted for 14 hits – a toll Warren County compounded even further with five errors – and scored six runs over the final two innings en route to an 11-6 Conference 28 victory that avenged Monroe’s loss to the Wildcats earlier this season.

William Monroe entered the game in fourth place in the conference standings, leading the fifth-place Wildcats by nine points (teams in Conference 28 earn eight points per win).

“I think we were kind of drained from last night,” Wildcats head coach Justin Stock said of Thursday night’s nine-inning loss to Skyline. “I mean it was a home game but it was kind of a late night and that took a lot out of us.”

Likely no Wildcat was more adversely affected by the quick turnaround than senior pitcher Anneslee Cockrell, who was forced into the full-time starter role due to an injury to Elizabeth Keener earlier this season. After tossing all nine frames on Thursday, Cockrell went the distance against William Monroe and needed 145 pitches to do so.

The senior right-hander pitched out of jams in the first two innings to strand five total base runners but then surrendered at least one run in each of the final five frames, including three each in the sixth and seventh innings.

“I don’t think we were expecting her to be our main pitcher throughout the year and you could tell the ball started to get up and (she was getting) a little fatigued,” Stock said of Cockrell, who was charged with seven earned runs, walked four and struck out six. “Early on the change up was really getting them off but as the fastball started to slow down you could tell they were timing it.”

Warren County (5-8), down to just 11 healthy players, rallied from a four-run deficit with a six-run fourth inning to take a 6-4 lead but didn’t hold that advantage long. The Dragons (7-7) got a run back in the top of the fifth after Lexi Lam led off with a double and later scored on an error. The next inning, Monroe struck for three more runs to gain the lead.

Dragons junior catcher Alexis Wayland – who went 3-for-4 with three RBIs in the win – led off the sixth with a solo home run to left. Brystal Dickerson followed with an RBI infield single on a hard grounder back to the pitching circle that hit Cockrell in the left knee, and an error with two outs allowed a third run to score for an 8-6 Monroe lead.

Three straight singles from Lacey Beale, Kaitlyn Beale and Wayland to open the seventh plated another run before a wild pitch and an error sent two more across the plate.

Lacey Beale, one of two left-handed slap hitters atop William Monroe’s order, tormented the Wildcats with a four-hit performance that included three stolen bases and two runs scored. Jessica Ford (double, RBI) and Lam (two doubles, two RBIs) each added two hits for the Dragons.

“This is my third year coaching and this is the best hitting team that I’ve had so far,” Dragons head coach Greg Breeden said. “Pretty much the girls that are juniors now are the girls I brought up … so we’ve been teaching technique of hitting a little bit more. But most of them are natural hitters. If I can get them to play defense like they love to hit we’ll be OK.”

A shaky defensive inning for the Dragons helped fuel Warren County’s six-run fourth inning, a rally that began with a lead off walk and featured an RBI single from Cockrell and an RBI sacrifice fly from Sam Perea before the Wildcats were given some extra outs.

An error on a routine fly ball with two outs extended the inning and allowed a run to score, and another defensive miscue loaded the bases for the top of Warren County’s order. Wildcats sophomore catcher Morgan Coons tied the game with an RBI infield single, and senior shortstop Arianna Smoot – batting for the second time in the inning – gave Warren County the lead with her own RBI infield hit. A throwing error on Smoot’s single sent a second run across the plate on the play, giving the Wildcats a 6-4 lead before the inning finally came to an end.

That was all the damage the Wildcats could muster against Monroe freshman starting pitcher Hailie Lam, however. Lam threw all seven innings, allowing two earned runs on seven hits, two walks and four strikeouts.

Warren County, led by Jayda Saulsbury’s two hits, stranded a runner in each of the last three innings, squandering a leadoff walk in the fifth and Savannah Haffer’s leadoff double in the sixth.

“We need to get a little more production out of the bottom of our lineup. That’s really hurt us – and stringing hits together. We actually, first inning we hit three hard balls and got nothing out of it,” Stock said.

“We got through that first and second (inning defensively), I thought we gave ourselves a chance, and then we took the lead and it just never blossomed from there.”

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