Warriors unable to capitalize on short fences

PICKERINGTON — Warren played top-ranked Lakewood in a home run-friendly ballpark at Pickerington Central Wednesday.

All a batter had to do was get the ball in the air to the outfield, and it was gone as the fence down the left and right field lines said 185 feet and dead center was 200.

The fences at Warren and Lakewood are much further away.

Well, Lakewood capitalized on the shorter fences at Central and slugged five dingers en route to a 10-1 triumph over the Warriors in a D2 regional softball semifinal.

Warren on the other hand had zero round-trippers, but there was a big reason why: 6-foot pitcher Courtney Vierstra.

The right-handed-throwing Lancer hurler was almost on top of the batter when she stepped forward in the circle and delivered her heater. (The last pitcher I saw who had that kind of speed was 6-3 Parkersburg South righty Jill Stephens, who by the way was in Faces in the Crowd in “Sports Illustrated.”)

“Courtney’s a good one,” said Lakewood skipper Criss Nadolson. “She has command of her pitch, and hits her spots pretty well. She throws pretty hard and changes speeds nice.”

Vierstra finished with 10 strikeouts and no walks. She retired the first 10 Warrior batters she faced.

“She keeps you in most ballgames, and that’s what we ask our pitchers to do,” said Nadolson, whose Lancers (29-1) have outscored the opposition, 58-1, this postseason. “Give us a chance to win, and she usually does that.”

Warren (13-13 overall, 4-1 postseason) played a very competitive schedule this spring, but probably didn’t face a hurler of Vierstra’s caliber and velocity. Next year, the talented senior will be throwing for Miami of Ohio, an NCAA Division I school.

Still, it wasn’t like the Warriors didn’t know about Vierstra. They tried to prepare for her.

“She was fast,” said Warren senior right fielder Hannah Yoho. “But we spent a lot of time hitting off a machine with high speeds practicing for it. It was tough, but we got hits down, just not when we needed them.”

Warren sophomore Diamond Decker had the most success against Vierstra, stroking two singles and driving in a run off her. The Warrior stortstop/pitcher also grounded out to second.

Warrior junior third baseman/shortstop Lizzy Williams (0-for-3) and junior center fielder Avery Grayson (1-3) also made contact and put the ball in play in each of their three plate appearances. Sophomore catcher Olivia Shutts also had a hit and scored the royal blue and white’s only run of the contest in the fourth inning.

WHS second baseman Chloe Corser got robbed off a hit on a nice play by Lancer shortstop Megan Davis.

“They (Warren) swung the bats pretty good,” Nadolson said. “They were after her (Vierstra).”

And, with eight returning starters scheduled to return in the spring of 2018, Warren will be after more than just a return to the regional tournament.

“We’ll be back,” said Warriors boss Jenny Lynch. “That will be our goal. We put Warren Local on the softball map. They know who we are.”

And, just maybe, next time if Warren plays at Pickerington Central, it’ll take advantage of those short fences.

Ron Johnston is a Marietta Times sports writer, who can be reached at rjohnston@mariettatimes.com

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