Lady Dragons roll past Conneaut, into D-10 semifinals
MEADVILLE, Pa. – Smiles were spread across every member of the the Warren Area High School softball team as they waited at home plate for teammate Lex Nyquist, who had just delivered a 2-run home run in the fourth inning of Wednesday’s District 10 Class 4A quarterfinal against Conneaut.
Actually, those smiles began long before first pitch, and they never left.
Nyquist’s blast was part of a 10-hit attack, half of which went for extra bases, that, coupled with Ellie Lobdell’s near-flawless pitching, propelled the Lady Dragons (14-4) into the semifinals with a 12-2, 6-inning win at Allegheny College.
“I was proud of the girls for their attitudes and energy the entire game,” said Warren coach Jon Sitler. “From Kate Shippee’s pre-game speech, all the way through the sixth inning, we were loud and had our noses to the fence.”
Early in the game, Warren searched for its timing on offense against Conneaut pitcher Ally Welcheck.
They were able to strike for a single run in the second. Ellie Lobdell led off with a walk, and with two outs, Grace Wortman’s double to center brought in courtesy runner Morgan Munksgard.
That was all through the first three innings, as both pitchers were strong.
Lobdell struck out the side in the fourth, but any thought of a pitchers duel was quickly erased in the bottom of the inning.
Kiersten Hoffman and Lobdell led off with back-to-back walks. Gracie Wood moved them up with a sac bunt for freshman Jordan Sitler, who came through with the second extra-base hit of the game, a double that made it 3-0.
“At the plate, we were aggressive in our zone, which is always the key,” coach Sitler said. “Even without scoring early, we were putting the ball in play and hitting it hard.”
They weren’t even close to being done.
With two outs, Julia Lobdell’s solid single brought in Sitler and Nyquist followed by sending the first pitch she saw in her third at-bat against Welcheck over the left field fence.
With a tremendous work ethic, Nyquist is quick to make adjustments, even during the game, when she works with assistant coach Ed Loutzenhiser.
“We do that before every at-bat,” she explained. “It’s just our little routine that helps keep us in the groove.”
In addition, the 7-8-9 hitters – Sitler, Wortman and Lobdell, went a combined 4-for-8 with four RBI and four runs scored.
“Offensively, it’s nice to know anyone can have a big day,” noted Sitler. “Our 7, 8 and 9 hitters complemented the lineup nicely, with Grace Wortman starting things off with an RBI double in the ‘8’ spot in the lineup.”
When the dust settled, it was a 5-run fourth inning that made it 6-0.
And it was one of those days when the bats got hot and stayed hot.
Celia Chase led off the fifth with a single and Hoffman followed with a double.
Ellie Lobdell and Wood hit long fly balls in the next two at-bats, bringing them both in with sacrifice fly’s to extend the lead to 8-0.
“Timing was a big thing,” Hoffman said. “I think we all did what we were supposed to do and saved an at-bat for the person behind us. Even if we did mess up, we came back.”
All the run support was more than enough for Lobdell, who took a perfect game into the sixth inning.
With one out, a single, a hit-by-pitch, an error and an RBI groundout by Ashton Andrews led to two unearned runs, but that did little to take away from Lobdell’s performance.
“Oh my gosh, Ellie was awesome,” Nyquist said.
“She was even able to push through an ankle twist,” added Hoffman.
She struck out nine, allowed just the one hit and didn’t walk a batter.
“On the field, other than one inning, we made the plays that needed to be made, and Ellie made her pitches,” Sitler said.
Grace Wortman’s leadoff single in the sixth chased Welcheck, with Conneaut going to Kiersten Shrock.
Julia Lobdell followed with a walk and Kelsey Stuart singled to load the bases for Chase, who drew a bases-loaded free pass.
That brought up Hoffman, who split the gap to bring in all three runners, ending the game with the 10-run rule.
It was a quarterfinal game that was much different than last season’s 6-5 loss to Grove City.
“I think we are a ten time stronger team this year,” Hoffman said.
Added Nyquist: “I think our attitudes are so much better this year. We’re so confident in each other.”
Up next is a date with Fort LeBoeuf in the semifinals today.
The two Region 6 foes met twice during the regular season, with Warren winning both times – 11-1 and 8-1.
“We are very familiar with Fort LeBoeuf,” Sitler said. “They can hit, and they are well-coached. They seem to always be in this spot — playoff-ready — when this time of year comes around. We have to play well.”
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Wurdock 2b 3-0-0-0, Andrews 3b-ss 3-0-0-1, Shrock ss-p 3-0-0-0, Brown c 2-0-0-0, Bortnick cf 2-0-0-0, Culver rf 2-0-0-0, Welcheck p-3b 2-0-0-0, Taylor 1b 2-1-1-0, Weidler 1b 1-1-0-0, Totals 20-2-1-1
Nyquist ss 4-1-1-2, Stuart rf 4-1-2-0, Chase 1b 3-2-1-1, Hoffman 3b 3-2-2-3, E. Lobdell p 0-0-0-1, Munksgard cr 0-2-0-0, Wood cf 1-0-0-1, Sitler dp 3-1-1-2, Wortman c 3-1-2-1, J. Lobdell 2b 2-2-1-1, Wilson lf-flex 0-0-0-0, Totals 23-12-10-12
Conneaut 000 002 – 2 1 0 – 2
Warren 010 524 – 12 10 1 – 12
2B – Wortman (W), Sitler (W), Hoffman (W); 3B – Hoffman (W); HR – Nyquist (W); WP – E. Lobdell; LP – Welcheck
Welcheck 5+ IP, 8 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 3 BB, 0 SO
Schrock 1 IP, 2
– Welcheck pitched to one batter in the sixth
E. Lobdell 7 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 9 SO