As the Class 3 defending state champions, the Warrenton varsity softball team entered Thursday district semifinal game at Hannibal against Mexico looking to launch yet another postseason to remember.
The Lady Bulldogs, on the other hand, were gunning for a similar outcome and aimed for exactly that from the first pitch on. That's why head coach Keith Louder knew his teams fate was in good hands based on everything Paytience Lawson-Holman had accomplished in the circle during the regular season. As for what that translated to in the playoffs, the Lady Warriors were held to just one hit with 11 strikeouts as Lawson-Holman earned a 2-0 complete-game decision.
"(Lawson-Holman) was spot-on tonight. She was just one weak ground ball up the middle from throwing a no-hitter," said coach Keith Louder. "She only faced two over the minimum number of batters. It was a great performance from her. We had a couple good defensive plays behind her to keep things going, as well."
All of Mexico's scoring came in the bottom of the first inning when Aaryn Sampo and Lawson-Holman charted back-to-back singles. After Lauren Qunilan came in to run for the pitcher, Logan Blevins connected to drive both of those runners home, as well as take third base. When Hayley Mills was then hit by a pitch, it appeared as though the Lady Bulldogs were on the cusp of crossing home plate once again, only to find Mackenzie Davis on the wrong end of a ground ball to the first baseman.
"We caught a break inn the first inning. The ball got away from the first baseman and allowed us to score one run. When I looked up I saw the ball was at the fence and the first baseman was down, so I don't know if she slipped or what," Louder said. "That allowed us to score that second run from second base. In a game like this you wouldn't think something like that would hold up for the whole game, but it did. That was a great way to start and take some pressure off of us for the rest of the game."
Once Lawson-Holman sandwiched strikeouts around a fly ball to left field in the top of the second, Raigan Playter led off the bottom of the stanza for Mexico by reaching base safely on an error by the shortstop. That led to a sacrifice by Taylor Sherrow to move Playter, who was 1-for-3 with a steal, to second that became runners on first and third after a single to left by Mattie Roth. Warrenton once again came through with its back against the wall, though, forcing Reghan Smith and Sampo to account for outs number two and three.
"We won, so (the weather that forced several other districts to postpone its Thursday games) didn't effect us. The only thing we talked about was the balls the outfielders were throwing in were going to be wet. We had to be sure to keep our heads down, eye on the ball and see it all the way from the glove to the hand before making throws," said Louder. "We had to increase our focus based on the conditions at the beginning of the game. Both teams were playing on the same field. No excuses. We had to win."
In the top of the third Lawson-Holman retired the side in order, a result the Lady Bulldogs mirrored on ground balls by Lawson-Holman and Blevins and a line drive to the third baseman by Mills. Lawson-Holman then struck out the second batter while retiring the side in order in the fourth to give Raigan Playter the opportunity to reach base shortly there after for Mexico on a dropped third strike prior to stealing second base. Sherrow and Quinlan then struck out and popped out to bring things to a close.
"I'd like to think our defense would be playing well no matter what, but Warrenton had a good game today. They made a couple of nice plays defensively at the riught times to keep us from scoring a couple more runs," Louder said.
It was the fifth that began with Lawson-Holman finally giving up a hit, striking out the second batter and hitting the third. Two strikeouts later by Warrenton and Sampo posted a one-out single for the Lady Bulldogs and stole second. While Blevins did then draw a two-out walk after a fly ball by Lawson-Holman, Mills connected on a line drive that the Lady Warriors infield was bale to snag for the third out.
"Hayley Mills hit ball really hard with two outs and runners on first and second and I thought we were going to get another run, but their third baseman made the play to her left," said Louder. "This was two good teams playing hard. (Warrenton is) the defending state champions. They weren't going to go out easily. Those kids have a lot of pride and played well."
The Lady Bulldogs, 20-7 overall, 12-0 North Central Missouri Conference, next played for the Class 3, District 8, title on Saturday against Hannibal, which beat Fulton 3-1 on Thursday in the other district semi-final. During the regular season the Lady Bulldogs defeated the Lady Pirates twice.
"Obviously this wasn’t our best offense night, but the defense and pitching was spot on," Louder said. "At this point in the season it is about having one more run than your opponent so you can continue to play. We got that done tonight."