ST. CHARLES – The Warriors heard the whispers.
They weren’t supposed to be much of a threat this year.
Not with six all-conference players and two more key contributors gone from the program. A second consecutive GAC North title looked like a lost cause, a longshot at best.
But the new crew had something to say about that.
Light on experience but heavy on hustle, Coach Eric Burle’s scrappy group spent the spring working through some growing pains while grinding their way toward Monday’s golden opportunity.
Simply put: a doubleheader sweep over St. Charles would guarantee Warrenton the league crown outright.
So the bats got down to business. And by the time the lights were turned off at Blanchette Park and after almost five hours on the diamond, the Warriors bashed enough baseballs to break out the brooms, reeling in a pair of victories (9-5, 21-4) against the Pirates and another conference championship.
“It’s awesome,” Burle said. “I think a lot of people kind of wrote us off with the amount of kids we lost from last year. Obviously there was a learning curve at the beginning, but we found a way. And today was good for the guys, because they didn’t want to have to share (the title).”
The Warriors finished their league slate with a 6-2 record. In addition to the Pirates, they also swept St. Charles West, while splitting with Winfield and Orchard Farm.
The Eagles were the team rooting hardest for the Pirates Monday, as their outright title hopes were still alive before the outcomes of the twinbill.
Before last year, Warrenton hadn’t won an outright conference championship since 2000. It won a share in 2015, finishing in a three-way tie for first with St. Charles and St. Charles West.
WARRENTON 9, ST. CHARLES 5
A game that began in Warrenton last week and was suspended due to inclement weather after two innings with a score knotted at 1, the Warriors went ahead quickly after play resumed and stayed in front for good after Cody Herzog lined a run-scoring single to bring home Xavier Noble, who was hit by a pitch in the bottom of the third.
Warrenton built a lead as large as 7-1 with a five-run fifth, before the Pirates countered with four-spot in the sixth but they never got closer than two runs.
Both teams had their No. 1 starters on the mound, though neither pitched very ace like. Warrenton’s Garrison Hibbs got the win and gave up five runs on nine hits with nine strikeouts and zero walks. Noble pitched the seventh to notch the save. And St. Charles hurler Sam Myers, who threw a complete game, allowed more runs than he had in a single-outing all season to the Warrenton offense.
“Garrison’s been our horse on the mound, but (St. Charles) got to him a little bit today,” Burle said. “But he gutted out and we hit their ace fairly well, too.”
Hibbs helped his own cause at the dish, going 3-for-4 with two doubles, an RBI and two runs scored. Herzog was 3-for-4 with a double, drove in three and stole a base. Nate Shepard reached base three times with two singles and a walk, and Manny Raygoza and Jack Bunge each had a hit and plated in a run.
WARRENTON 21, ST. CHARLES 4
In an offensive explosion, the Warriors hit the 20-run plateau for the first time since they beat Wright City 20-7 back in 2004.
It took four innings to take care of the Pirates with six different Warrenton players recording multiple hits and the team drawing 10 walks with a patient plate approach against St. Charles starter Sean McRaven who was chased in the third after throwing over 100 pitches.
Herzog, Noble and Nate McGee all nearly hit home runs, but settled for doubles.
Hibbs had two hits and drove in four runs. Noble had three hits, three RBIs and two stolen bases. Hunter Sherman was all over the base paths. He was 2-for-2 with three walks, stole four bases, scored five runs and drove in another.
Shepard was the winning pitcher, allowing four runs in four innings.
“We were able to jump on them early and just kept hitting up and down the lineup,” Burle said. “I’m happy with how we’re playing. We’ve got a week and a half before districts and we’ll just keep trying to get better.
Now 9-11 overall, Warrenton is slated to wrap up its regular season Saturday at Sullivan before opening the Class 4 District 8 Tournament on May 11 against Mexico at Winfield.