WARRENTON - Mark it eight, Dude.
That’s eight as in eight consecutive victories for the Warrenton softball team. The most recent of which, a 6-3 home win over St. Charles West Tuesday, clinched the Warriors the 2019 Gateway Athletic Conference North championship outright.
It’s Warrenton’s sixth league title in seven years, and first since 2017 following a one-year lapse last season when the Warriors finished 9-18.
But even though the roster has a similar look, last season seems like ancient history. It might as well have happened a million years ago. For reaffirmation, just ask junior first baseman Kennady Estes, who had two hits, swiped a pair of bags, drove in a run and scored one against STCW. This Warrenton team is different.
“Everyone has each other’s back,” Estes said. “We just enjoy playing together more and I think that’s led to our success. Not only are we playing better, but we’ve grown together as a family, too. This is a group that is 100 percent closer than we were last year and that’s why this accomplishment feels really good.”
Warrenton improved to 14-6 overall and 7-0 in GAC North play with one league game remaining on Thursday against Orchard Farm. No other conference team has less than two losses.
STCW, which fell 16-4 in its first meeting against Warrenton, dropped to 4-11, 1-5. But West put up more of a fight this time with Warrenton choosing to start backup Jordan Lynn in the pitcher’s circle.
STCW led 2-1 after the first inning and tied the score at three in the top of the fourth, before Warrenton went ahead for good in the bottom of the frame when Estes hit a line drive single to center that plated Kiersten Anderson. The hosts then added two insurance runs in the sixth.
This game featured junior shortstop Hailey Roberts’ team-leading fourth home run of the season, a solo bomb she socked to center off starter Emily Richardson the first frame. Roberts finished 3-for-4 on the afternoon, stealing a bag, driving in three runs and scoring two. She now has 34 RBIs on the campaign, which is good for fourth most in the St. Louis Metro area.
Dani Schlager produced a run-scoring single and Michele Higby also added a hit.
Lynn allowed five hits and three runs (two earned) with two walks and five strikeouts to earn her first varsity win of the season. Ace hurler Kathryn McChristy came on in the fifth to protect a one-run lead and fanned six batters in three innings to notch the save.
Pristine pitching from McChristy, a sophomore, has been an essential element to the Warriors’ hot streak.
She’s been especially stingy as of late, reeling off a stretch of 23 consecutive scoreless innings and counting. Her personal streak started in Saturday’s doubleheader opener against Hannibal. She allowed a run in the first inning and nothing after in Warrenton’s 3-1 win and followed up with an even better performance in the twinbill closer — twirling a seven-inning no-hitter with two walks and 13 Ks in the Warriors’ 8-0 triumph against Calvary Lutheran.
Seven more shutout innings in Warrenton’s 3-0 win over St. Clair Monday came before Tuesday’s relief appearance.
The myriad of zeroes has lowered her season ERA to 1.59 and her 168 strikeouts are the most in the St. Louis Metro area. She and Wright City pitcher Melissa Locke are the only two to have reached 150 at this juncture.
And it’s a real possibility that a McChristy/Locke pitching duel could unfold during districts.
Warrenton still has five games left and plenty to work on before the regular season’s completion, but that doesn’t mean the Warriors aren’t pleased with the way things have shaped out thus far.
“Winning conference is great,” Warrenton Head Coach Chad Berrey said. “We wanted to flip our season around and we have the possibility to win out (in league play) Thursday, which is something to be proud of.
“The girls are better at making adjustments and they fight until the end. They don’t let each other get down. They rally around each other and I think that’s a big piece that was missing last year.”