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Looking for repeat performance

Last season was a banner year for the Warren County Middle School softball team. Coach Gooby Martin’s Lady Pioneers were the regular season champions in the Central Tennessee Conference and finished second in the CTC tournament.
Making another run at the championship won’t be easy this year though as seven starters from last year’s team are now at Warren County High School. Coach Martin has several holes to fill on his Lady Pioneer squad and he’s been using preseason practice as a time to find this year’s starters.
“We have a lot of new girls in new positions,” said Martin. “We lost seven starters and nine girls overall who played a lot of ball for us last year. We’re searching for the right mix in practice.”
Rough weather has hurt the process as the Lady Pioneers have only been on the field five times since practice could officially begin in early February. When Warren County has had a chance to get on the diamond, the remaining holdovers from last year’s team have made their mark.
Shortstop Madison Mason and center fielder Emily Webb each return for their eighth-grade years after starting the last two seasons. Mason, Webb and pitcher Erin Hollis make the Lady Pioneers strong up the middle as each were a big part of last year’s championship team.
Coach Martin will fill in around his three eighth-graders with several players who can play a variety of positions.
Hope Mullican and Neva Tackett are each working at third base, but could start at other positions as well. Mullican is a good pitcher, one who could split starts with Hollis. Tackett, an eighth-grader, can play outfield and catch too.
Lauren Hennessee is another eighth-grader who could start for the first time at second base. Emily Mikkola is also making a push for the spot at second base as she backs up Hennessee and Mason. Bethany Porter and Lexie Chadwell are in contention for the open spot at first base.
In right field, Kyra Hillis and Amy Webb could split time. Tackett, when she isn’t playing third base or catcher, will spend time in left field. Eighth-grader Skylar Youngblood is playing for the first time and is an option at catcher for coach Martin.
With a roster of 23 players, coach Martin will have a junior varsity team as well. The JV team will include Macie Walker, Hailey Wood, Carigan Aughinbaugh, Ashton Whiles, Shonacye Rutledge, Audrey Phillips, Grace Rains, Kelsey Fults, Marah Wanamaker, Maddie Cantrell and Brianna Young.
Dealing with fresh faces at nearly every position will make a repeat of the regular season championship a challenge, but coach Martin knows his team is willing to accept it.
“These girls are ready to compete and win some games,” said Martin. “We’re going to have to figure out how to score runs and the defense will have to play well, but these girls are accepting the challenge.”
Most of the Lady Pioneers’ preseason work, including a playday the team normally holds at WCHS, has been rained out. The team will begin the season Thursday, March 14 with a home game against Franklin South Middle School.
The game will begin at 5 p.m. at Warren County High School softball field, where the Lady Pioneers will play all their home games.

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