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Youth movement

Coach David Upton hopes the old saying “for every freshman playing on your team, count one loss” isn’t factual. If it is, the Lady Pioneers will start the season in an early hole.
With seven starters to replace and several players bitten by the injury bug in the preseason, the Warren County High School softball team enters the regular season with question marks at nearly every position. Coach Upton’s answer to those questions thus far is throw in a freshman and hope they can learn on the fly.
Coach Upton knows his team is young and inexperienced, but he has seen his team show up to practice everyday with the intention of getting better.
“We’re very young and will be playing a lot of first-time varsity girls this season,” said Upton. “It will be tough to replace the knowledge and experience we had on last year’s team. These girls are coming along though and are working hard every time we get on the field.”
Of the 23 players on the Lady Pioneer roster, 10 are freshmen. By the time the season begins Monday at Franklin County, there could as many freshmen starting as seniors.
Allison Bond, one of three seniors on the Lady Pioneer team, believes her young teammates are getting up to speed quickly and could help make it a good season.
“I think it will be a good year,” said Bond. “The girls are listening and taking advice. As a senior, I’m just trying to help out by giving the young girls the same tips I’ve been given over the years.”
Bond could step into a starting role in centerfield, while her fellow seniors have already nailed down starting positions. Monica Lane and Mahaley Keele each return after being named All-District 6-AAA as juniors. The dynamic duo will have to carry a heavy load on the field and at the plate.
Lane, a two-time all-district selection at second base, will be making the move to pitcher for the Lady Pioneers. Lane has made several starts in her career, racking up 10 victories in the circle along the way while pitching behind departed senior Gabi Keith.
Lane also is a key part of the Lady Pioneer lineup as she was named the team’s offensive player of the year a season ago. Lane batted .350 with 22 runs scored, 17 RBIs, 12 doubles and one home run.
Keele immediately made her mark on the Lady Pioneers after transferring from Boyd and sitting out her sophomore season. As a junior, Keele moved into the starting lineup in left field and was steady in the field and at the plate. Keele led the team in hits in the District 6-AAA tournament a season ago and looks like the best bet to take over the lead-off role Carson Newman signee Lauren Wilkinson left behind.
Injuries to several juniors, including catcher Jessie Newby and outfielders Chelsey Chandler and Keely Jacobs, have opened holes for freshmen to fill in this year.
Abby Hutchins and Bailey Walker are battling at catcher to see who could possibly catch Lane on opening day if Newby can’t recover from a leg injury.
Emma Holmes, Lindsey Cox and Ericka Turner are battling for spots in the outfield if Chandler can’t play and Bond’s knee, which was injured in the first week of practice, gets sore.
Ty Ramirez looks to be the lone freshman with a starting spot already locked up. Ramirez is working at third base, with fellow freshman Lexi Locke working at the position.
The rest of the infield is filled by players who starred on the junior varsity team last season. Junior Samantha Weeter is the most experienced Lady Pioneer on the infield, having started seven games at shortstop due to injuries last year. She’ll be the full-time starter at shortstop this season.
Junior Abbi Reyes and sophomore Liza Harvey will make their first varsity starts on the right side of the infield as Reyes takes over first base and Harvey moves to second base.
Sophomores Maya Denning and Jordin Milanovich and freshmen Bailey Martin and Livia Walker provide depth in the  infield.
Milanovich is also working as the team’s designated hitter while Livia Walker could be a factor at several positions when she returns from a knee injury.
Junior K.B. Cantrell will be in the mix for starts at pitcher as she comes off a solid sophomore season. The lanky righty is a good change-of-pace pitcher who baffles opponents with her devastating drop ball. Cox and sophomore Sarah Knowles could get chances to pitch on junior varsity.
Coach Upton knows his youthful team will be unpredictable and injuries to several upperclassmen makes it even harder to pinpoint the ability of his team. The one thing coach Upton does know is the effort will be there every game.
“I’ve told the girls we may win five games or we may win 25 games,” said Upton. “I think there’s enough talent here to be successful. These girls are always listening and giving it their all.”
The Lady Pioneers will begin their season Monday with a 7 p.m. road game against Franklin County. Warren County plays its first home game next Friday against Shelbyville. First pitch will be at 7 p.m.
The Lady Pioneers will their final preseason work in this week with a four-inning game tomorrow night in Coffee County. Warren County will take on Shelbyville at 6 p.m. The Lady Pioneers will also take part in the Shelbyville playday this Saturday.


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