GASTON – When it was all over Tuesday night, Mariah Berry and Maddie Richards shared a long hug, tears streaming down their faces.
The longtime best friends — and top players for the Wes-Del Warriors — had wondered which direction the season would go after it began so roughly, with six losses in the first seven games. Each of those defeats was by five runs or more, and four were by at least eight runs.
An 11-0 loss to visiting Tri in regional play put a temporary damper on the Warriors reaching several of their preseason goals — including hitting double-digit wins (they had 11) and capturing the program’s first sectional title in seven years, which they did last week.
Wes-Del, though, was still proud of putting itself in position to claim the program’s first win in a regional.
“We just started getting it together,” Richards said of closing the season with five wins in six games.
The most frustrating part for the Warriors was that the scoreboard was maybe a little deceiving. The Titans undoubtedly deserved to win, especially with Mackenzie Peggs (4-for-4) and Kirsten Falck both launching home runs.
But Wes-Del (11-16) tallied 10 hits, just one fewer than Tri (12-10). The problem was the Warriors were 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position, and as a result they stranded 12 baserunners for the game.
“I think it was crazy that we couldn’t score,” said Myah Swoveland, who reached base all three times she came to the plate. “We hit it straight to them, and they made some fantastic plays.”
Added Berry, who along with Swoveland and Taylor Ward played their final games for the Warriors: “I feel like we’ve always struggled to string hits together.”
Tri, on the other hand, had no trouble coming up with the key hit, batting around in a four-run second inning and adding three more in the third to take an 8-0 lead.
“We just couldn’t string (hits) together. It just didn’t work out today for us,” Wes-Del coach Alan Richards said. “I don’t want to take anything away from them because they did a good job. It took us a couple innings to get into the game too, and that was a problem. They jumped on us early.”
After going down in order in the first inning, Wes-Del had at least two base runners in each inning and twice loaded the bases. In four innings, the Warriors — which got multi-hit games from Jasmin Brown, Jentry Johnson, Ward and Swoveland — had two on with only one out.
Tri also played flawless defense behind Abbi Coffman, who tossed all six innings. Bailey Coffman made a diving catch in center field on Chelsea Ledbetter’s fly ball with the bases loaded in the fourth inning, and the Titans finished with no errors.
“We just couldn’t put them together in the right place and at the right time,” Alan Richards said. “It’s one of those days. They made some fantastic plays at crucial moments, excellent plays in the outfield. They’re a solid ball club.”
Contact sports features writer Ryan O’Gara at (765) 213-5829. Follow him on Twitter @RyanOGaraTSP.