WR freshman McHenry’s homer propels Defenders

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Warrior Run’s Valandra McHenry is congratulated by third base coach Garth Watson after hitting a three-run home run in the sixth inning for Warrior Run against Bloomsburg on Tuesday.

TURBOTVILLE — There’s something special about the way the Warrior Run softball team carries itself. Maybe it’s because it has one of the most dominant pitchers in the area in Madi Waltman.

Maybe it’s because it has the defense to back up Waltman when offenses can locate a pitch. Or it just might be that Warrior Run coach Garth Watson has his girls ready to play on any day.

Down by two in the sixth inning it was a freshman who Watson inserted into the lineup who came up big in another Warrior Run come-from-behind win over Bloomsburg, 5-3, Tuesday afternoon.

Down 3-2 and held to just three hits in the sixth inning, freshman shortstop Valandra McHenry squared up a fastball from Bloomsburg senior Kendra Loff and sent it over the centerfield fence for a three run home run and gave Warrior Run its first lead of the game, and the lead for good.

“I didn’t even know it went over the fence until I heard everyone screaming,” McHenry said. “I just hit it and ran.”

The freshman was a last-minute starter Tuesday and was just trying to do something good for her team after she committed an error in the fifth inning that later gave Bloomsburg the 3-2 lead.

“That home run really brought me back up. I wasn’t doing too good at first because it was my first start at short and I was a little nervous. I just did what my coaches told me to and relaxed,” McHenry said.

Waltman was not feeling the greatest and still recorded 15 strikeouts in the 111 pitch win. Two of Bloomsburg’s runs were from wild pitches. The Panthers also had bases loaded after two hit batters and a single in the fourth with two outs. After a coaches’ visit to the circle to calm down and find her spots again, Waltman mowed down Olivia Hull with three straight fastballs and ended the inning.

“(The game) wasn’t ideal, the team came out flat, I was battling sickness throughout and the rain didn’t help, but we gutted out another win.” Waltman said.

The hard-throwing right hander had peaks and valleys in her pitching and Bloomsburg was ready for the majority of Waltman’s pitches. The Panthers jumped out to a lead and did not let it go until McHenry’s homer. It started with Rita Nuss finding a soft spot in shallow left field between McHenry and Marissa Pick, Nuss ran it out and was standing on second before the ball got back to the infield, then Ashley Rostucher scored Loff on an RBI single to right.

“I had to step on the mound and told myself every pitch has a purpose. I couldn’t think about the last pitch because I know there are eight other girls behind me,” Waltman said.

Waltman mentioned that her veteran experience helped her keep her composure after an uncharacteristic night.

Bloomsburg scored a run again in the fourth inning when Nuss hit a clean double to the outfield fence and later scored on a Haily Kreisher ground out. But Warrior Run kept chipping at Bloomsburg’s lead, answering each time that Bloomsburg scored.

“It wasn’t, pretty but it was effective in getting the win,” Watson said.

The Defenders led off with Hannah Michael reaching first on a hit-by-pitch and moved to second on a wild pitch. Michael then took third on a close play when Gracy Beachel hit a grounder to the first baseman who threw it across the diamond to try and get the speedy Michael, who scored on a wild pitch in the next at-bat.

Warrior Run again benefited from good base running and wild pitches in the fourth inning and tie the game at two when Lauren Watson blooped a single to right field and advanced around the bases and scored on three wild pitches from Ellen Hull.

“We’re battle tested and gritty,” Garth Watson said. “Especially when you get to this part in the season where we play South (Williamsport), Loyalsock and Bloomsburg, it’s like a playoff game every time we come out. We still have a few things to fix, but we will be OK looking forward.”

Warrior Run 5, Bloomsburg 3

Bloomsburg 100 110 0 — 3 5 1

Warrior Run 100 103 x — 5 5 1

Ellen Hull, Kendra Loff (4) and Lilly Yablonski. Madi Waltman and Jade Swartz. W: Waltman. L: Szkodny.

Top Bloomsburg hitters: R. Nuss 3-4, 2B, 2 runs, RBI; Rostucher 1-2, RBI; Adamchick 1-3. Top Warrior Run hitters: Valandra McHenry 2-3, HR, 3 RBIs; Amber Pentycofe 1-3, run; Lauren Watson 1-2, run.

Records: Bloomsburg (5-5), Warrior Run (8-1). Next game: Warrior Run at Southern Columbia, Thursday, 4:30 p.m.