SOFTBALL: Quick strikes: Warren uses big bombs to advance to 5th straight District 10 Class AAA title game

MEADVILLE – When the Lady Dragons got up on Hickory in Thursday’s District 10 Class AAA semifinal playoff game, they didn’t look back.

That’s exactly what Warren head coach Mark Bupp wanted from his Region 7 co-champs – a 10-0 six-inning winner at Allegheny College.

“We talked about it yesterday… build an early lead and shut the door,” said Bupp, whose Dragons advance to Monday’s D-10 championship game at 2 p.m. at Penn State Behrend.

It took a couple of innings for Warren (16-1) to get going, but after Alexa Bupp pitched out of a third-inning jam, the bats thanked her for it.

Hickory started the top of the third with two infield singles before Bupp struck out the next three batters.

In the bottom of the third, junior second baseman and leadoff hitter Kaitlin Ishman woke the place up with a one-out blast over the right-center field fence. After Jaimie Eaton worked her second of two walks, Meghan Loutzenhiser added her long bomb of the inning, a two-run homer to left.

“‘Ish’ got us started and we were able to follow it up,” said coach Bupp.

Alexa Bupp did it again in the fourth when the first two Hickory batters got on by a soft single and then double before she worked through it with a soft liner to second base, a strikeout, and fly out to center.

Erica Blair started the bottom half with a walk – she had three walks in the game – before Taylor Mineweaser pushed her sac bunt attempt past the pitcher for a base hit. After an out, Kennedy Walter slapped a base hit up the middle to load the bases. The merry-go-round inning continued with an RBI single from Ishman, another slap hit from Eaton for an RBI, an RBI hit from Bupp, and an RBI fielder’s choice groundout from Loutzenhiser for her third RBI of the game.

In the meantime, Alexa Bupp had settled in nicely, striking out five of the last six batters of the game. Bupp didn’t walk a batter after the first inning, finishing with 12 strikeouts over six innings in the three-hit win.

After Warren’s quick strikes in the third and fourth innings, there was a quick strike of lightning and a weather delay. It didn’t stop Warren’s momentum after the break.

Walter scored Blair in the fifth with a slap triple for an 8-0 lead, and Hickory started to unravel. Two Hickory errors in the bottom of the sixth put Bupp and Loutzenhiser on base before freshman catcher Paige Wilson stroked a base hit to left. The return throw hit courtesy runner Alexis Munksgard on the back while standing on third and rolled out of play to score the last two runs of the game for the 10-run rule. It was Hickory’s third error of the inning.

Every batter in Warren’s lineup had either a hit or run scored. In fact, seven different batters had at least one hit and Blair reached base all three times by walk. Ishman was 2-for-4 with two runs and two RBI, and Walter 2-for-3 with a run and RBI.

“I’m proud of the girls, (and) proud of our seniors for four years in a row in the District 10 championship game,” said coach Bupp. “We just need to go out and do our jobs like we can.”

The Lady Dragons will not know their opponent until Friday, when the rain-suspended semifinal game between two-time defending D-10 champion Fort LeBoeuf and Corry will be completed.

“I think we looked at it like every other game,” Mineweaser, a senior, said of Warren’s focus for the Hickory semifinal game.

“We haven’t won (a District 10 title) since our freshman year,” said the senior Eaton. “It doesn’t matter who we play. We just want to win the game.”