VINCENT — Heavy hearts were prominent at Warren High School as three Mid-Ohio Valley softball programs convened for a round-robin format as part of the “Strike Out Cancer” event on Saturday.
Warren welcomed Waterford and Parkersburg South as part of the awareness and the opportunity to remember 2003 Warren graduate and former Warrior middle school softball coach Jill Gates, who died on March 21. Along with pink socks as part of their uniform attire, Warren players wore pink hair ribbons with the initials ‘WJG.’ The abbreviation stood for Warren Jill Gates.
“Jill Gates was the middle school coach up until about half of their tryouts,” Warren High School softball coach Katie Dickson said. “She had been battling cancer for six years. She stuck it out for several weeks of our preseason and right before the season began she passed away.
“We kind of threw this together last minute and wanted to honor her. She has always been a big supporter. She does the pink-out game for our youth league. She has pretty much coached all of our players except our seniors and been a part of our program for that long.”
The meaning of the afternoon didn’t get away from South head coach Tim Burch. The Patriots arrived on the Warren campus at 8 am with the intention of playing two scheduled varsity games in addition to a junior varsity game. Upon completion of the varsity games, enough light remained for a Warren middle school game but not enough for a South JV contest.
Burch made an executive decision and told event organizers to go forward with the middle school game and his program would step aside regardless of any possible repercussions from players who made the bus trip nearly 10 hours earlier.
“It is the right thing to do — the middle school kids lost their coach,” Burch said. “My goodness, if we can’t do that for each other then we have lost sight of what we are doing.”
Cara Taylor’s parents probably had good reason not to use the letter ‘K’ when determining the first letter for her first name. That’s because the senior from Waterford is closing in on completing her high school softball career with only one ‘K’ (strikeout lingo) as part of her offensive numbers.
After going 5-for-7 in two games at Saturday’s “Strike Out Cancer” Taylor recalled the events leading up the a career performance the night before when she hit for the cycle in order. She finished 5-for-6 with eight RBIs, including a grand slam to cap off the 21-9 win over Federal Hocking.
The feat marked Taylor’s first career cycle and first career grand slam.
“Last year at Federal Hocking was my only game I didn’t have a hit — I went into the mindset this year is going to be different,” said Taylor, who will be attending Muskingum University in the fall. “But what I did last night is not what I expected.
“The grand slam, I didn’t know it went out. I was running the bases and coach was telling me to slow down, slow down. Everyone came out and greeted me. It was really cool.”
Friday’s win over Federal Hocking included several feats — including Wildcat coach Doug Baldwin reaching 400 wins in his career. Baldwin is currently in season No. 30 with the Wildcats.
With the 8-7 win Saturday against South, the total increases to 401.
“The 401 wins have come because of great kids, great coaches who have helped me — they have just done what we have asked for a long time for 29 years,” Baldwin said. “I told my coaches, it’s not about me. It’s about the kids. It’s a milestone and something I have been working to get to , but our kids work hard every day.”
Contact Kerry Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org