WARRENTON - The tears haven’t stopped. The pain hasn’t subsided. But the Warriors still had a softball game to play Tuesday, one day after losing classmate Megan Gross, a senior starter on the volleyball team, in a fatal car accident.
For the softball team’s three seniors – Hope Roetemeyer, Katie Carter and Kylie Carter, Monday was like nothing they’ve ever experienced. It was a day of loss they’ll never forget, a nightmare they still haven’t woken up from, a tragedy which they all agree they couldn’t handle on their own.
“It was really rough,” Roetemeyer said. “We were together all day long.”
Added Kylie, “We cried in the conference room at school together, we cried on the car ride to the hospital together and we held each other’s hands and decided that we were going to get through this together.”
And while softball might have been the furthest thing from their minds, most of Warrenton’s players elected to attend Monday’s optional practice, where they also made another poignant decision.
“Whether we won or lost, today and the rest of the season is just to memorialize Megan, someone who not only meant a lot to us but to athletics and the community,” Kylie said. “Today was definitely for her.”
Perhaps it was no surprise that the Warriors did win – rallying past visiting Winfield for a 3-2 walk-off victory — with the comfort that they just knew their lost friend was watching.
“We knew she was with us the whole game,” Katie said. “We knew she was there and we’re just praying for both families involved with the crash and we’re playing for them the rest of the way.”
Trailing 2-1 entering the seventh inning, Roetemeyer set the Warriors’ comeback bid into motion with a one-out single. Avery Tucker also singled and Kathryn McChristy brought home the tying run on a base-hit she lofted over the Winfield third baseman.
With runners on first and second, Katie Carter grounded into a forceout at third for the second out. That sent Dani Schalger to the dish as the Warriors’ final hope.
The junior centerfielder delivered with her third hit of the game, one that had just enough mustard to sail over the shortstop’s head and provided enough time for McChristy to score the winning run from second with relative ease.
Schlager said it wasn’t her intention to become the game’s hero.
“I just had to do my job,” she said. “All I had in mind was making contact with the ball. After I did I just kept running and didn’t realize it was over until I saw everyone walking off the field.”
Schlager’s walk-off made a winner of Warrenton starting pitcher McChristy and deservedly so. The freshman fireballer was fantastic, striking out 10 hitters and walking two in a one-hit complete game. Winfield plated both unearned runs against her in the fourth to take a 2-1 lead that held for two more frames.
Along with Schlager, Tucker also had three hits for the Warriors and drove in the game’s opening run on a two-out single in the third.
Katie and Kylie Carter each reached base twice with a single and walk and Elizabeth McChristy had a single.
The victory bumped Warrenton’s record to 5-10 overall with a 2-4 conference mark and also provided a bit of redemption after Winfield was a 14-13 walk-off winner in the team’s first meeting on Aug. 28.
“We remembered that loss and we weren’t going to let it happen again,” Warrenton Head Coach Chad Berrey said. “Given the circumstances, our girls were as focused as they could be today. And I think the difference was that we had something to play for. We just want to honor Megan as much as we can. We wanted to do it for her.”
Berrey said Winfield, which dipped to 5-6 overall, showed tremendous class and support by bringing flowers, a sympathy card and hugs to the Warrenton softball captains before the game.