On a night to forget, I began thinking about a moment I’ll always remember. My mind drifted to Monday night, when the Lady Pioneers played one of the best games I’ve ever seen from the group.
Laser focused is the best way to describe the squad when the Lady Pioneers marched off a charter bus – look good, play good – on a mission to avenge last year’s loss to Walker Valley. They were everything you’d want to see from a team in a big game – crisp, cool, calm and collected.
Every ground ball was met with perfect fielding. Every throw popped in a teammate’s mitt. Every swing had purpose.
The bells and whistles Walker Valley used to create a raucous atmosphere grew quieter. When Warren County took a 1-0 lead, you could hear their crowd get anxious.
After the Lady Pioneers went up 3-0 before the final inning, you knew Walker Valley was nervous.
Two outs later, they were completely silent. As Emily Mikkola gathered a final ground ball and slung it to first for the final out, their silence was met with screams of jubilation from the Lady Pioneers.
Warren County had climbed another mountain and planted its flag. Years of hard work had the Lady Pioneers moving toward the state tournament.
The celebration seemed to carry over into Wednesday, when Warren County overwhelmed Ooltewah in the region final. The mistakes were kept at a minimum, the celebration was not.
The Lady Pioneers were able to dance and cheer on their home field for a region championship – something that has eluded the program for three decades. Smiles and laughter were shared by all - probably a few tears of joy too.
Everything about Monday and Wednesday was perfect for Warren County. The hitting was clutch, Madison Hollis was an absolute rock star in the circle and the fielding was sublime. Coach Gooby Martin said before the year this team had the potential to be great. The potential had given way to reality.
All the highs of the week made Friday’s loss all the more puzzling. Sure, Siegel was great. The Lady Pioneers weren’t ... for one night.
It could be easy to dwell on that last loss - the one that got away. It will sting this weekend. It will this week, and next week, and maybe lots of weeks after.
Slowly though, the pain of the loss will heal. The outgoing seniors, at least three of them, will win more in college. The returning Lady Pioneers can come back with a renewed purpose – unfinished business to drive them to new heights.
And at some point, this group will get back together in a few years and they’ll remember what they did.
They’ll remember going to Walker Valley and shutting down a team that was making reservations for the state tournament. They’ll remember being the ones who raised a region banner for the first time in program history.
They’ll remember the good times, great plays and amazing wins. There were plenty.