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Pioneers topple Wildcats in softball

FRONT ROYAL – Millbrook had some close losses early in the season, but the Pioneers showed on Friday they may be turning things around.

The Pioneers knocked off Warren County, 7-5, in Northwestern District softball action. It was Millbrook’s second win of the week, after starting the season 0-5.

“This is our third game this week,” Millbrook coach Mandee Madden said. “We play Sherando (today). So the fact that we got this team win, utilized both our pitchers, girls really stepped up and played different defensive positions. I’m really, really proud of our girls.”

It was a tough loss for Warren County, which committed four errors in the game and stranded six in the game.

“Games come down to who makes the defensive plays, and who gets the key hits and we didn’t do it,” Warren County coach Ted McDaniel said. “I don’t know how many runners we stranded tonight, but it was a lot more than we should have. We’d get third and second and we didn’t get that hit to drive the runs home. …We let balls drop and you just got to make the defensive plays and we didn’t do that.”

The Wildcats (5-3) had an opportunity to score in the bottom of the first. Morgan Coons led off with a single and Jayda Saulsbury drew a walk from Millbrook starting pitcher Danielle Vanderhoof.

Coons was forced out at third base on a ball hit by Elizabeth Keener. Warren County’s Sabrina Perea then hit into a double play to end the inning.

In the bottom of the third, Coons drew a two-out walk by Vanderhoof. Coons then stole second, but Saulsbury grounded out to end the threat.

The Pioneers (2-6) took the lead in the top of the fourth. Sophie Pell led off with a double off of Warren County freshman starting pitcher Arianna Whited, and Katie Tirona’s RBI double gave Millbrook a 1-0 lead. Tirona moved to third on an error and scored on a wild pitch for a 2-0 edge.

“I think once we started to give ourselves a chance to find the pitch that we wanted to hit we started making great contact,” Madden said.

The Wildcats battled back in the bottom of the fourth. Perea drew a one-out walk by Vanderhoof. With two outs, Perea scored on a Millbrook off a deep fly ball by Alegand Baltimore-Lane. Warren County’s Bri Hogan hit the ball hard, but Millbrook shortstop Mia Kincaid made a nice line drive catch for the last out.

Millbrook extended the lead in the top of the fifth. With two outs, Millbrook’s Cara George, Rylee Warchola and Pell each drew a walk from Whited. Perea replaced Whited in the circle and Tirona greeted Perea with a two-run single. An error on the play scored Pell to give the Pioneers a 5-1 advantage.

McDaniel said he was happy with how Whited pitched against the Pioneers.

“Ari (Whited) I think got a little tired,” McDaniel said. “She walked three batters and I had to take her out. I really wanted her to finish that inning. I wanted it for her, because tonight was the best she’s pitched all year. I was really happy with her pitching.”

The Wildcats had a chance to cut the lead in the bottom of the fifth. Coons singled with two outs, and Saulsbury followed with a double. However, Millbrook reliever Pell induced a groundout by Keener to end the inning.

Warren County cut into the lead in the bottom of the sixth. Perea led off with a double and went to second on a wild pitch. Warren County’s Chase Roltsch followed with an RBI single. Hogan doubled to left field to cut the lead to 5-3. With two outs, Macie Clerkley’s RBI single trimmed the deficit to 5-4.

In the top of the seventh, Warchola reached on an infield single. Pell followed with a two-run homer over the centerfield fence.

“Sophie (Pell) has been hitting well,” Madden said. “Last year she had a few more home runs. This is her first one this season and it couldn’t have been more timely. I’m really proud of Rylee (Warchola) for getting on base just to give us that extra boost, using her wheels. But Sophie just found a great pitch and it was beautiful, perfect, perfect. And I think she just got really hungry at the plate, so that’s awesome.”

With one out in the bottom of the seventh, Keener drilled the first pitch by Vanderhoof over the left-field fence to cut the lead to 7-5. It was Keener’s first homer of the season. She has missed most of the season due to injury.

Pell and Kincaid led the Pioneers with two hits each. Madden said she hopes the Pioneers can keep their momentum going.

“Hopefully, the bats keep going and we use this momentum and just lessons in the field to keep moving forward in the season,” Madden said.

Coons led the Wildcats with two hits. McDaniel said he was very proud of the way his team battled against the Pioneers.

“We just got to keep fighting, keep giving it all we got,” he said. “And this is a fun team for me to coach. I’m enjoying the heck out of it.”

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