By Pat Turner
The good times continue for Warren’s Warriors.
The team which had never won a playoff game until two weeks ago is now on a roll.
Thanks to making history that first week of the post-season with a 5-3 win over Smithson Valley, followed by sweeps of Austin Lake Travis and District 28-6A foe O’Connor, the Warriors are in the Region IV semifinals against Edinburg Vela in a best-of-three series at A&M-Kingsville Friday and Saturday.
Two wins there means playing for the Region IV championship against New Braunfels Canyon and San Benito the following week. No doubt playing for a trip to the State Tournament would be the ultimate thrill for the Warriors, who entered the playoffs with no post-season experience, they’re sticking to their one step at a time approach.
That was the way Warren (25-5) handled the situation during their 5-2, 6-3 regional quarterfinals wins over O’Connor (21-10) this past weekend.
Still, the good vibes can’t be hidden.
The Warriors showed that confidence throughout the series with solid defense, key hits from Austin Germain, Briana Arredondo, Lauren Garcia and Annika Litterio. Of course, Litterio also kept the pitching solid.
Prior to her hit, Germain singled, stole second and scored on Arredondo’s double. She then followed Germain’s double with a two-run homer in the third.
“We wanted to come out and get a win,” Garcia said. “We didn’t want to get behind. It gave us a lot of confidence. We play like a family. Everyone is close and confident in each other.”
Although confidence was high after getting the 1-0 edge, Warren coach Melanie Morales reminded her team how O’Connor overcame a Friday loss to take two games from Johnson the previous week.
The players also remembered the two battles in District 28-6A where the two teams split.
“That was the first thing I told them (after Friday’s game),” Morales said. “Yes, we should be excited we won the first game. O’Connor came back to win two games against Johnson and they knew they could do it. We couldn’t under estimate them.”
So, overconfidence was not an issue.
“We knew this was going to be a good series,” Garcia said. “They know us and we know them. We knew we couldn’t relax. We knew (O’Connor) was going to come in with the mindset they came back to beat Johnson just like this, so we had to do our best.”
The Panthers kept the pressure on Warren the entire game.
Both teams came up with big hits, as well as top-notch defensive play.
Garcia shined in the outfield. Key stops also came from infielders Germaine, Lauryn Hernandez and second baseman Dynasty Harpel, who made a leaping catch and fired the ball to first baseman Tori Jimenez for a double play.
O’Connor received quality play in the outfield from Dani Pedraza, Madeline Rodriguez and Olivia Bell.
The heads-up play of the contest came in the infield when a line drive ricocheted off third baseman Gaby Katz’s glove and into the glove of shortstop Gabby Guzman, who zipped the ball to first for the out.
The Warriors began by loading the bases in the first. After a fielding error, Germain dropped a single into right field and Harpel reached safely on a bunt.
It appeared O’Connor might escape without a scratch as the Panthers got two quick outs. However, Jimenez made sure the effort wasn’t wasted. The junior fouled off five pitches before lining a two-run single to left.
O’Connor left runners on base the first three innings, but the Panthers made their opportunities count in the fourth.
With one out, Kathleen Barton singled over shortstop, and Guzman brought her home by ripping a double to left-center. With two outs, Pedraza sent an RBI single through the middle to bring home the tying run.
Litterio didn’t stress over seeing Warren’s lead slip away. Instead, the freshman got the advantage back for the Warriors in the fifth.
With two outs, Briana Arredondo singled to left and Litterio drilled a two-run shot over the left-field fence for a 4-2 lead.
“I was just thinking base hit,” Litterio said. “I was hoping to help us get a run. I was looking for something outside, so I could drive that run in. (Pitcher) came inside and was able to unleash on it.
“I wasn’t worried when they tied. We’ve been in these situations before. I knew my defense was going to be there and we would get the hits.”
Litterio’s blast ignited a spark as the Warriors padded the lead with two in the sixth.
Alana Medellin smacked a one-out double and moved to third on Cassie Davis’ single.
Garcia then cleared the bases with a double to right-center.
“The homerun was huge,” Garcia said. “It sparked our energy to come back. I was trying to add a little more (in the sixth). We knew we had to finish strong. We didn’t want this to go three games.”
The Panthers didn’t go down without making things interesting in the seventh.
With one out Pedraza drilled a homer over the left field fence. After another strikeout Rodriguez lined a double to left and moved to third on Bell’s single. Litterio got the final out to seal Warren’s victory.
“We had to bring our A game, because O’Connor has been here before” Morales said. “They’re a well-coached and know how to adjust. But the girls in purple came through. We showed a lot of heart.”
In other softball playoff action involving 28-6A teams, Holmes fell to New Braunfels Canyon, 12-0.
You can hear a replay of the game by logging onto https://soundcloud.com/theechovoice/warren-oc-softball-round-3-2018-playoffs
Images from the game can be found https://echosportszone.pixieset.com/warrenvsocinsoftballregionalqtrfinalsbydavidgast/