Dragons set to take on familiar foe in semis

Kiersten Hoffman and the Warren Dragons take on Harbor Creek in the D-10 semifinals on Thursday at Penn State Behrend (3 p.m.).

After grinding out a 4-3 win in the Class 4A District 10 Softball Quarterfinals against Hickory, Warren is set to face a familiar foe in the semifinals on the campus of Penn State Behrend at 3 p.m. today.

The Dragons will match up with Region 7 rival Harbor Creek with a trip to the district championship game on the line. Warren swept Harbor Creek in their two regular season meetings.

Warren (17-1) won the first game at home, 7-0, on the strength of a 5-run third inning. The Dragons took advantage of four Huskies (9-9) errors on the day, while pitcher Ellie Lobdell limited Harbor Creek to just three hits on the day.

Harbor Creek committed another six errors in the second game and Warren again capitalized for a 9-1 win. Lex Nyquist had a pair of hits and scored three times in the game and six of the nine Dragons hitters drove in at least one run.

“This will be the third time we meet Harbor Creek this season, and we’ve had some close games in the last couple of years,” said Warren coach Jon Sitler. “We’re very familiar with them, as they are with us. Game plans aside, we have to play our game — our aggressive game, and we know that, and we’re ready.”

Warren’s potent lineup, seven of the nine regular starters are hitting .380 or better, was largely held in check against Hickory. The Dragons weren’t able to string many hits together, collecting just six all game, but got big hits when they needed them. Three of the six went for extra bases, and several well-struck balls were line drive outs.

Lobdell has been an offensive juggarnaut this season. She’s slashing .517/.556/1.275 with six doubles, four triples, 10 homeruns and 28 RBI. But the Dragons have power up and down the lineup. Senior Kiersten Hoffman has a .456/.523/.859 line with six doubles, a triple, five homers and 13 RBI. Fellow senior Gracie Wood (.451/.491/.784) is third on the team with 17 RBI. She has eight doubles, three triples and a homerun. Nyquist, a junior, (.438/.493/.609) is second with 18 RBI. She’s hit eight doubles and a homer this season.

It’s not just in the batter’s box where Lobdell has dominated. The reigning Region Pitcher and Player of the Year has been stellar in the circle again this season. She’s 17-1 with a 0.69 ERA, eight shutouts, four no-hitters and a perfect game. Lobdell has allowed just 21 runs, 11 earned, on 51 hits in 111 innings. She’s walked 26 and struck out 167.

Warren knows it can’t depend on Harbor Creek mistakes this time out, especially after the Huskies were nearly perfect in the field in their 1-0 quarterfinal win over Conneaut Tuesday. Pitcher Macy Stoddard was outstanding in the circle as she held the Eagles to just four hits over seven innings. She walked just one and struck out three. Stoddard also drove in the game’s only run.

“Harbor Creek made some mistakes against us in the regular season that we can’t count on, or even worry about,” Sitler said. “We’re focused on having fun, being aggressive, communicating, and playing Dragon softball.”

On the season, Stoddard is 6-5 with a 2.23 ERA. She’s given up 59 runs, 23 earned, on 81 hits in 72 1/3 innings with 50 strikeouts and just 12 walks.

Offensively, the Huskies are led by junior right fielder Jenna Babay. She’s slashing .446/.475/.660 with six doubles, two homeruns and 23 RBI. Stoddard (.395/.500/.418) and senior catcher Victoria Yonko (.305/.333/.322) are tied for second on the team with 14 RBI. Freshman shortstop Reagan Rand (.397/.457/.555) is third with 13 RBI, but leads the team with seven doubles.

A win would send Warren to its seventh district title game since 2010. First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m., though forecasted thunderstorms in the area could lead to delays or postponements. Check www.timesobserver.com or the Times Observer Facebook and Twitter (@TimesObserver) feeds for any schedule changes.

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