MIDDLEBURY – There wasn’t much good that came out of Wednesday’s Northern Lakes Conference game at Northridge for the Warsaw softball team.
Losing 24-2 in five innings, the Lady Tigers (3-8) now sit at 3-2 in the NLC, while Class 4A No. 10 Northridge (10-1) moves to 5-0, grabbing a stranglehold on the road to winning its third-straight conference title.
Warsaw’s hope for snapping Northridge’s 38-game NLC winning streak may have been heightened when the Lady Raiders got a slim 12-11 road win at Wawasee Monday, a team Warsaw defeated 3-1 a week-and-a-half ago.
But according to Northridge coach Bo O’Dell, that one-run victory was a bit of an anomaly.
“That was just one of those games,” O’Dell said. “The wind was blowing 30 miles per hour and it was just one of those things. If you look at the scores from everybody else that night, they were almost all in the double digits, except one game in the whole area. It was one of those things where they played well and we didn’t play that well.”
Against Wawasee, Northridge ace Haley Nixon struck out seven, but gave up 12 hits and 11 runs, six earned.
Refocused for Warsaw, the Indiana Wesleyan-bound Nixon went four innings, striking out seven and giving up two hits, although one was a solo homerun to Warsaw senior Kaleigh Speicher.
On the year, Nixon is now 8-1 with 67 strikeouts in 60 innings of work.
“I tip my hat to them,” Warsaw coach Jim Speicher said. “When you have Nixon on the mound and you hit the ball, you’re going to win. But 24 runs is embarrassing to me. To see where we’ve plummeted in two years is really disheartening.”
Two years ago, Warsaw had two Division I players in catcher Kelsey Dotson, who’s at Indiana University, and third baseman Kendra Marshall, who’s now at Trine University after spending her freshman year at Valparaiso University.
According to O’Dell, graduation can turn program fortunes around real quick, and for now, he wants to continue the current ride his team is on.
“I have the upmost respect for Jim and everything he does with his program,” O’Dell said. “All programs go in cycles. One of these days, we’ll have our turn. It’s fun when you’re on top, like we’re experiencing right now, but it’s just a learning process for all of us. We’ll have that soon with eight seniors moving on.”
And not coincidentally, Northridge’s last NLC loss came to Goshen, when their ace, Natalie Newell, was dominating the conference.
Upon Newell’s graduation, Nixon became the NLC’s ace, and the Lady Raiders have been riding high ever since.
“It starts with the pitcher,” O’Dell said. “It comes in cycles, and luckily we have the girl on the mound right now that’s usually one of the better athletes on the field.”
Speicher agrees that pitching is the biggest factor in the sport, and his team isn’t getting it consistently right now.
“If you don’t have pitching in this sport, then you can’t compete,” he said. “We don’t have pitching. They smacked the ball all over the park. And when we do get a chance to get outs, we don’t play good enough defense. When you’re not good at two of the three facets, against a good, strong program with the ace in the conference, that’s how these things snowball.”
Taking advantage of the Warsaw pitching, Northridge pounded out 21 hits, three of which were home runs and another four were doubles.
Doing the most damage to the Lady Tigers was Northridge senior Brianne O’Dell, who  went 4 for 5 with two grand slams, two doubles and 10 RBIs.
“She just got up at the opportune times,” her father/coach said. “She’s a (No.) 3 hitter, so that’s her job – to drive in runs.”
Senior Hannah Kistler, who was a Warsaw student in middle school, also had quite a night, going 3 for 4 with a home run and two RBIs, while Nixon was 5 for 5 with two RBIs.
Northridge may have been racking up big numbers, but Warsaw was just looking to get out of the game and refocus for Concord at home Friday night.
“Unfortunately, we’ve had to put too many of these games behind us,” Speicher said.
“Everybody’s frustrated, but until we fix it, this is what’s going to happen,” he added. “Especially against good teams.”

NORTHRIDGE 24, WARSAW 2 (5 innings)
W    000    20    –    2    2    4
N    366    9x    –    24    21    3
Northridge – Haley Nixon (W, 4IP, 2R, 1ER, 2H, 7K, 1BB, 1HR), Brooke Maes (5, 1IP, 0R, 0H, 2K, 0BB) and Taylor Long.
Warsaw – Whitney Sleeth (L, 2-2/3IP, 15R, 10ER, 15H, 0K, 1BB, 1HR), Taylor Stiver (3, 1-1/3IP, 9R, 9ER, 6H, 1BB, 1HB, 2HR) and Sidney Hernandez.
2B – Brianne O’Dell (N) 2, Nixon (N), Jordan Yoder (N).
HR – O’Dell (N) 2, Hannah Kistler (N), Kaleigh Speicher (W).
Records: Northridge 10-1 (5-0 NLC), Warsaw 3-8 (3-2 NLC).