Warhill High is becoming the master of the quick kill, thanks to hitting at the top of a lineup improved even from the Group 3A softball state championship season of a year ago.
The Lions hit the ball hard and often in beating Tabb 6-2 on Monday, clinching at least a tie for a second consecutive Bay Rivers District title.
The big shot was a three-run homer by Olivia Schulz in the bottom of the second inning. That was, by itself, more than enough runs for the Lions (17-0 overall, 15-0 district) because pitching ace Keely Rochard has not given up more than two runs in any game this season.
"Last year was more significant because it was our first one," Rochard said. "But it's hard to win this district, because you play everyone twice, and it's tough to do going undefeated — something we've done so far."
Rochard, a Virginia Tech signee, had two hits including a double and an RBI.
"It's nice to know we're headed in the right direction," Rochard said.
Tabb coach Brian Verstynen said, "Warhill's a great team, Keely's a tough pitcher, and Coach (Tom) Bunn has them hitting early in games. He's getting them set up for a good postseason run."
The addition of freshman Taylor Nicholson is helping at the plate. Nicholson scorched the ball in three of her at-bats, parlaying two of them into base hits.
Tabb shortstop Madelyn Morinec robbed Nicholson of a third. Retrieving Nicholson's hard-hit ball that ricocheted off Tabb third baseman Kristin Malloy's chest, Morinec threw her out by less than a half step.
"Scoring early makes our confidence jump and makes our opponents feel like they can't beat us," Nicholson said.
Kieran McClure's triple, Rochard's RBI single and Jasmine Ortiz's run-scoring double gave Warhill a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Schulz crushed a high inside pitch for a homer that left the yard in a hurry.
Lindsey Davis, who was 3-for-3, added an RBI single to give the Lions a 6-0 lead in the bottom of the second. Rochard was perfect in the pitching circle in the first three innings, striking out six.
Tabb (9-8, 9-6) remained intense, though, and got to Rochard for two unearned runs in the fourth. Morinec broke up the perfect game with a one-out single and scored on a two-base error by the outfield with two outs. Emily Gavin followed with a single to drive in the Tigers' second run.
With a share of district in hand, the Lions will focus their preparations on adding a second state championship trophy.
"We have bigger goals," Rochard said.
Nicholson added, "Playing for Warhill is great. It's a challenge every day in practice because a better player is next to you and the coaching is amazing."
WARHILL 6, TABB 2
Tabb: 000, 200 0 – 2 2 0
Warhill: 240, 000, x – 6 12 2
WP – Rochard, LP – Gore. Standouts – Warhill, Nicholson 2-4 (double), Schulz 1-3 (3-run home run in 2nd), McClure 2-4 (triple, two runs), Rochard 2-3 (double, RBI, pitched 2-hitter, 10 strikeouts), Davis 3-3. Records: Tabb 9-8, 9-6; Warhill 17-0, 15-0.
O'Brien can be reached by phone at 757-247-4963.