The first four hitters for Riverside all reached base with singles, matching the team’s hit output over its previous two games.
Such is life for a young but talented squad, one that picked up an 8-0 win at Sissonville in five innings on Thursday to snap its two-game skid after losses to Class AAA contenders George Washington and Cabell Midland.
Those two losses followed a doubleheader sweep of Parkersburg on Saturday as the Warriors, wh0 have only one senior in lineup — third baseman Kendal Marshall — try to find consistency. For now, the win over the Indians will send the Warriors into a mini-break for prom (Riverside next plays on Tuesday) with some needed momentum as the postseason looms a little over a week away.
“We finally got our hitting back,” pitcher Lauren Pauley said.
She would know, going 2 for 4 from the leadoff spot and scoring the game’s first run as part of a three-spot in the top of the first inning to set the tone.
It was quite a relief for the Warriors (11-8) when Pauley broke the team’s long scoring drought early. Some adjustments made in practice the prior day seemed to help.
Riverside had problems with the riseball over the course of the past two games, so coach Maria Taylor and staff worked on moving each hitter up in the box to try to adjust.
Then Pauley took some of the onus on herself as she quickly developed the pitch over the course of the week and threw it to her teammates in practice along with the team’s other pitcher, Gracie Donato.
“They threw a lot of rises and junk balls so at practice [Wednesday] me as a pitcher and our other pitcher threw to batters,” Pauley explained. “We’re the upperclassmen now, so we’ve got to take some responsibility.”
Lately, Pauley has started handling the bulk of the starts in the circle, freeing up Donato, who has ranked among the Kanawha Valley leaders in nearly all offensive categories this season, to focus on her offense and her other position, first base.
Pauley’s flexibility and emergence has been an invaluable part of the equation in Taylor’s first season at the helm.
“She is probably one of the most coachable girls I’ve ever encountered,” Taylor said of Pauley. “She’s very disciplined. We don’t have to get on her if she misses her spot. She knows what she did and we’ll throw the same pitch and she’ll hit her spot.”
Donato also had a pair of hits on Thursday, doubling and driving in three runs. Taylor said Pauley’s pitching success and Donato’s ever-rising offensive numbers have gone hand in hand.
“It’s a chain reaction,” Taylor said. “If Gracie isn’t pitching well, sometimes she doesn’t hit well, so I think that definitely affects it. I think [Pauley] relieves some of the pressure for her.”
The Warriors figure to be the No. 2 seed in the four-team Region 3 Section 2 tournament, with Greenbrier East in the No. 1 spot.
The tournament will be double-elimination, with the winner advancing to a regional showdown against the Section 1 winner for a berth to the state tournament.
Riverside has fallen to the Spartans twice this season by the scores of 8-4 and 4-1, but Taylor knows her job is now to get her team peaking again in the next week and a half.
“Up until GW and Cabell, we were progressing, I thought we were on track,” Taylor said. “I think at this point you’ve got to take yourself out of the driver’s seat and hope they take the wheel. At this point it’s all them. I think they’re ready.”
Freshman catcher Haley Carroll also added a pair of hits for the Riverside. The Warriors sent nine to the plate in the fifth, scoring five runs, highlighted by Donato’s two-run double to necessitate the mercy rule.
Sissonville sophomore Jenna Thomas, who has also been near the top of most offensive categories this season, doubled to highlight the attack for the Indians (7-16).