Warren channels its energy into convincing victory
Three Warren hitters into Tuesday's Class 4A sectional semifinal game in Crystal Lake, the Blue Devils already had a pair of homers and an infield single.
Evidently nerves about playing in the Prairie Ridge sectional didn't matter to Warren, because the Blue Devils batted around in the first inning. It paid off with 5 quick runs.
Warren (26-5) will play for a sectional crown this weekend after an impressive 8-2 win over McHenry on Tuesday.
Trailing by a run in the opening inning, Warren leadoff hitter Megan Sowa cracked one over the center field fence to even the score.
First baseman Amy Ricci batted third for Warren.
"We had so much energy,'' Ricci said. "Our dugout was so into it when Megan hit that leadoff homer. It was a chain reaction."
And then it appeared that Ricci had been hit by a pitch. Only the home plate umpire didn't agree and told Ricci she shouldn't kick the ball.
So she tried something else. Like crush a 2-run blast over the fence for her seventh homer of the season.
"I did what I had to do,'' Ricci said.
And the rally was only three batters old. The homer parade was over, but that didn't stop the Warren attack. Sam Belletini and Megan Scott banged out consecutive singles. Shortstop Jill Fox blooped one to center to drive in another run. By the time Sowa batted again, winning pitcher Jana Wagner had a 4-run lead.
"That was phenomenal,'' said Warren coach Tina Meyer. "We really came out hitting. I'm so proud of them."
And then in the next four frames, Warren managed one Fox single and no runs.
"Sometimes, we get too comfortable,'' Ricci said.
Wagner surrendered a solo homer by Alex Martens leading off the McHenry second, but she settled down and retired the last 10 Warriors hitters in order.
"Jana did a phenomenal job,'' Ricci said. "She made them hit flyballs. And our outfield did a great job."
With Wagner silencing a strong offensive group from McHenry (23-13), that 5-2 lead looked safe heading to the Warren sixth inning.
And then the Warren hitters struck again. This time, eight Warren hitters came to the plate. Ricci finished with 4 RBI after cracking a 2-run double. Kelly Majewski chased Ricci home with another double. Sowa had a bunt single in the 3-run frame, and Jazmin Bonke and Belletini also had hits in the inning.
"We did a great of staying up,'' Meyer said. "We are in it to win it. This is the furthest we've come getting to the sectional. Last year, McHenry beat us in the regional so we wanted to get them in the sectional."
Every Warren hitter reached base at least once. Ricci, Belletini and Fox led the Warren attack with 2 hits each.
Warren will draw the winner of Wednesday's scheduled semifinal between Machesney Park Harlem and DeKalb at 11 a.m on Saturday for the sectional championship.
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