By Todd Stanford
For The Daily Item
TURBOTVILLE -- Garth Watson is starting to see signs of 2012.
Warrior Run's coach likes how the current version of his team is finding its hitting groove late in the season. If it keeps up, the Defenders just might make their second straight trip to the state final.
Warrior Run began its quest to get back to the PIAA Class AA championship game Friday; Taylor Parker struck out 15 batters and the Defenders posted 15 hits in a 9-1 victory over Wyalusing Valley in the District 4 quarterfinals.
"The last week (of the regular season), we beat Selinsgrove, Milton and Muncy," Watson said. "We really hit the ball. ... We caught fire at the right time again."
Parker had three hits, and four other Defenders ripped two. In all, nine of the 10 Warrior Run players who stepped to the plate got a hit off losing pitcher Emily Faulkner.
"We stayed ahead of (Faulkner) in the count," Watson said. "We made her throw some strikes, and we went with the pitches. We hit a lot of balls to the opposite field."
The Defenders (18-3), the defending champions in this tournament and the top seed, will face Southern Columbia in Tuesday's semifinals at Elm Park in Williamsport; the first pitch is scheduled for 5:30.
"It's going to be tough," Watson said. "It's not going to be fun."
The Rams finish their season at 14-7. They managed just five hits off Parker, though twin sisters Ally and Kasey DeVoir combined for four of them. Ally, the leadoff batter, started the game by swatting an 0-2 pitch over the right-center field fence for an early 1-0 lead.
Warrior Run got that run back in its half of the first. Gabby Shrawder walked, moved to third on Parker's single to right, and then scored when Jackie Clemens laced a sacrifice fly to center field.
Clemens had two hits, an RBI, and three runs scored on the afternoon.
"(Clemens) is really seeing the ball," Watson said. "She tore the ball up the last week."
The Defenders took the lead for good on an RBI triple by Shrawder in the second. Warrior Run got one more in the third for a 3-1 lead, but it was still a two-run game heading to the bottom of the fifth.
In the fourth, the Rams' Kasey DeVoir and Crystal Shirk each singled to put two on, but Parker fanned Makenzie Martin to get out of the jam.
"Their first four hitters ... are pretty good sticks," Watson said of the Rams. "Those girls have produced most of their runs all year."
Warrior Run finally broke open the game in its final two at-bats. In the fifth, Lynn Vermilya and Laura Bastian sandwiched RBI hits around a Carra Rishel sacrifice.
In the sixth, four hits and an RBI groundout produced three more runs.
Parker then struck out the side in the top of the seventh to end the game.