VINCENT - Warren needed help - and got it.
The Rachelle Pallini-coached Lady Warriors, one game behind Jackson in the Southeastern Ohio Athletic League (SEOAL) softball standings on April 25, were hoping that with a royal blue and white triumph over visiting Chillicothe and an Ironlady setback at Logan on that same day, they would secure a share of the conference crown.
Other than going out and defeating Chillicothe, Warren had no control of its destiny. One way or the other, though, the Lady Warriors had enjoyed a good ride that spring.
Photo courtesy of Daystar Studio
The 2012 Southeastern Ohio Athletic League co-champion Warren roster includes Brandie Rogers (14), Taylor Dennis (31), Hannah Zimmerman (6), Ally Spence (9), Taylor Bryan (28), Morgan Price (10), Megan Hukill (7), Riley Benson (11), Kendra Lynch (13), Hailey Murdock (4), Brandi Douglass (8), Kaylee Higgins (15), Arrianne Schetter (30), Natalie Knowlton, Brittany Tipton, and Erin Hukill. The Lady Warriors are coached by Rachelle Pallini, and Jenny Lynch is the assistant.
ROBIN PANNELL Special to The Times
Warren hurler Taylor Dennis delivers a pitch homeward to an Alexander batter.
ROBIN PANNELL Special to The Times
Third-baseman Brandi Douglass awaits a throw in an attempted pickoff of an Alexander baserunner.
"You know, going into the season, we knew we had a lot of talent on this team," Pallini said. "But we got off to a slow start. Still, we kept getting better with each game - and there were a lot of close ones.
"The girls kept telling me that the close games and pressure situations were helping prepare them for the tournament at the end of the season."
Jackson, of course, was in the proverbial driver's seat. Beat the Lady Chiefs, and the Ironladies would become the outright champions of the SEOAL.
"We thought Jackson would beat Logan," Pallini said. "But we also knew that Logan could be a tough team, because they'd played us tough."
Less than a week before, on Friday, April 20, Warren visited Jackson for a showdown at the top. Earlier that month, at Vincent, the Lady Warriors defeated the Ironladies, 11-7, and with that victory, the royal blue and white found itself in a three-way tie for first place. Also in the mix was three-time defending league champion Gallia Academy.
While Warren was brimming with confidence, Jackson had payback on its mind, and got off to a great start in the bottom of the first when Samantha Humphreys slugged a grand slam home run to stake the host team to a 4-0 advantage.
The Lady Warriors never recovered from that beginning, although they did manage to reduce the deficit to one (4-3) with a three-run fourth inning. But the Ironladies anwswered that with two runs in the fifth and three more in the sixth to win 9-3.
More importantly for Jackson, it was all alone in first place with at least a share of the SEOAL title.
Needless to say, the bus ride was a relatively quiet one from Jackson back to Vincent.
"We really didn't play bad against Jackson," Pallini said. "There were some close calls in that game that could've gone either way.
"I don't think the final score was reflective of how the game was. We actually outhit them."
So, now, Warren needed to take care of business against Chillicothe, and did, winning a 3-2 come-from-behind decision. In the top of the sixth of a scoreless game, the Lady Warriors gave up two runs. But bouncing back in the bottom half of the frame, they rallied for three scores on RBI hits by Brandi Douglass and Hannah Zimmerman to take the lead - and also the final score.
Kendra Lynch, Ally Spence, and Douglass each scored a run, and Taylor Dennis picked up a save in relief of Kaylee Higgins.
"After Chillicothe took a 2-0 lead, we had a little pep talk with the team," Pallini said. "I knew the girls would really feel bad if they lost (to Chillicothe) and then Jackson lost to Logan. So, they needed to play with more urgency - which they did."
Meanwhile, over at Logan, all Jackson had to do was win. Earlier in the season, on April 6, the Ironladies had defeated the Lady Chiefs, 9-0.
Logan (4-6 SEOAL) owned a losing overall and league record going into the game.
But the purple and white spoilers proved to be a handful for Jackson (8-2 SEOAL) this time, erasing two one-run deficits and upsetting the Ironladies, 6-4.
Warren was elated while Jackson was deflated.
It couldn't have been scripted any better for the Lady Warriors.
"After we beat Chillicothe, we hung around the field for almost a half hour," Pallini said.
"I think one of the parents got a text from somebody, letting us know that Logan had beaten Jackson. We were very fortunate. Then, we celebrated."
Warren is now getting ready for postseason play, and is scheduled to host either South Point or Vinton County at 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 12. Currently, the Lady Warriors own a 19-3 overall record and a six-game winning streak since the loss at Jackson.
"We've been playing pretty well since the Jackson game," said Pallini, whose Lady Warriors defeated Marietta 11-2 at Phillips Field on Tuesday. "And I'm very pleased with the way things have worked out."