MEADVILLE - Warren advanced to its fourth straight District 10 Class AAA title game Thursday with a 6-2 semifinal victory over Hickory at Meadville's Allegheny College.
If recent trends are any indication, this is the Dragons' year.
After losing the title game in 2009, winning it in 2010 and losing it again in 2011, the Dragons hope to capture their second D-10 title in four years when they meet the Fort LeBoeuf Bison at 4 p.m. Monday at Penn State Behrend.
Times Observer photo by Mitchell Wilston
Collision at the plate
Warren’s Kennedy Walter slides safely into home plate during Warren’s 6-2 victory over Hickory at Robertson Field in Meadville on Thursday.
"I hope it's our year," said Warren coach Mark Bupp. "We need to make sure we communicate on defense and look for our pitches to drive. We didn't do that in our loss to them earlier this season. I expect another close game and hopefully we come out on top this time around."
On Thursday, Warren (18-1) used the formula for victory it has used all season with dominant pitching, strong defense and timely two-out hitting. Four of Warren's six runs were scored on key two-out hits.
"I think it speaks to the resiliency of the team," said Bupp. "They believe that two outs is no big deal. We still have one big out left and the girls have come through time after time. If we can do that again Monday, it gives us a very strong chance of winning."
The Region 5 champion Hornets (11-6) got one hit off Warren pitcher Alexa Bupp in the top of the first inning, but were retired without plating a runner. In its half of the opening inning, Warren jumped out to a lead it would never relinquish.
Kaitlin Ishman used a patient eye to work a walk and Bupp stepped to the plate with one out. Bupp sent a 1-2 pitch to the gap in right-center, allowing Ishman to race around from first and score the opening run. After Bupp's RBI double, Meghan Loutzenhiser was inserted to run for her and Kristin Hultquist soon delivered Warren's first two-out RBI of the game.
Hultquist lined a shot through the left side of the infield, giving Loutzenhiser enough time to score from second and putting the Dragons on top, 2-0.
Warren's pitcher said that the quick strike offense in the bottom of the first inning was a key in the Dragons' win.
"We came out today and were ready to play from the opening pitch," said Bupp. "We had each others backs and battled with two outs just like we have all season long."
The score remained 2-0 until the top of the fourth when Hickory put together its biggest offensive threat of the game to that point.
The Hornets' Chelsey Marriott connected on a one-out single and advanced to third on a two-out bloop single by teammate Lauren Ferreri. With two down and runners on the corners, Bupp got Victoria Tomko to ground out to end the threat.
After nearly watching its lead disappear, the Dragons built on the advantage in their half of the fourth. Erica Blair led off with a walk, but was soon caught stealing. Sam Bevevino followed with a walk of her own and advanced to third on a single by Taylor Mineweaser.
Despite making an out, Kennedy Walter followed with an outstanding at-bat working a ball to the right side, allowing Bevevino to score to make it 3-0. With two outs, Ishman smashed a triple to deep right to plate Mineweaser and Jaimie Eaton followed with a short infield single to score Ishman and make it 5-0.
The Dragons added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth when Walter reached on an error and eventually scored on an RBI single by Bupp.
The Hornets tried to rally in the top of the seventh, but were only able to come up with two runs. Alyssa Kostka started the rally with a single and Madison Collier followed with a walk. Both scored on a two-run triple by Megan Chess, but Bupp struck out Alexis McBride to send the Dragons to another D-10 title game.
That game will be played against the Dragons' recent arch nemesis in Fort LeBoeuf (18-2). The teams split the Region 6 title after handing each other their only region losses of the season. Warren beat the Bison, 1-0, in Warren on April 9 and Fort LeBoeuf beat the Dragons, 4-1, April 28 in Waterford.
Alexa Bupp is confident that she and her team have the ability to take the season rubber match with LeBoeuf and bring the title back to Warren.
"I don't think we've played our best game against them all year," she said. "I think if we come out strong right out of the gate like we did today and take it to them, we have the team to get it done."
Like all seniors on the team, Hultquist will finish her high school career playing in four D-10 title games. She said ending the D-10 playoffs with another title - and a win over Fort LeBoeuf - would be the perfect way to finish up her high school career.
"It would be awesome to win another title," said Hultquist. "We've gone through a lot together as a team during the past couple of years and to be able to help each other win this title would be special. It would be the perfect way to go out."
Ishman and Bupp had two hits each with Eaton, Rachel Hasselman, Mineweaser and Hultquist adding one hit each. Bupp was the winning pitcher, allowing two runs on seven hits in seven innings. She struck out nine while walking just two.
HICKORY (2): ab-r-h-rbi: Megan Chess, p-1b, 4-0-2-2, Alexis McBride, ss, 3-0-0-0, Chelsey Merriott, 1b-p, 2-0-2-0, Emily Chess, dp, 3-0-0-0, Lauren Ferreri, 2b, 3-0-1-0, Victoria Tomko, cf, 3-0-0-0, Morgan McBride, c, 3-0-1-0, Alyssa Kostka, lf, 3-1-1-0, Madison Collier, rf, 2-1-0-0, Megan States, 3b, 0-0-0-0, Camilyn Clemenza, cr, 0-0-0-0, Totals: 26-2-7-2
WARREN (6): ab-r-h-rbi: Kaitlin Ishman, 2b, 3-2-2-1, Jaimie Eaton, ss, 4-0-1-1, Alexa Bupp, p, 3-0-2-2, Rachel Hasselman, 1b, 4-0-1-0, Kristin Hultquist, rf, 3-0-1-1, Erica Blair, lf, 2-0-0-0, Sam Bevevino, 3b, 2-1-0-0, Taylor Mineweaser, dp, 2-1-1-0, Kennedy Walter, cf, 3-1-0-1, Shaley Williams, c, 0-0-0-0, Meghan Loutzenhiser, cr, 0-1-0-0, Totals: 26-6-8-6
Hickory 000 000 2 - 2 7 1
Warren 200 301 x - 6 8 0
2b-Alexa Bupp (W). 3b-Kaitlin Ishman (W), Megan Chess (H). WP-Bupp. LP-Chess.