It was a sad day for Warren County High School sports. The book finally closed on the 2017-18 school year for teams Monday, with the Pioneer baseball team and Lady Pioneer softball team both falling in the region tournament.
But maybe it shouldn’t be so sad.
Sure, there were tears shed as three seniors on both teams laced their cleats for the final time in Warren County jerseys. And the agony of defeat won’t soon leave the minds of coaches Trice Powers and Gooby Martin.
Both programs helped carry on a resurgent school year for WCHS though. The region seemed to be the final resting place for most WCHS teams this year, which is something to celebrate, not mourn.
Warren County had five teams qualify for regions this year, including the Lady Pioneers winning the program’s first-ever district tournament title and the Pioneer basketball team winning in the region for the first time in three decades along the way. Baseball, volleyball and girls basketball also made it to region - no small feat in highly competitive districts.
Add in four state qualifiers in individual sports, with Christian Locke and Jayren Perkins being the latest in track, and Warren County is starting to flex its muscles in the Midstate.
When I first started covering sports in 2010, making region may be something one or two teams could pull off, while being a pipe dream for all others. It took a special collection of talent in a class, or a transcendent athlete, to carry the team to victory. Even then, the ceiling usually was losing to Cookeville over and over.
The script is beginning to flip. Aside from football - where Cookeville may be the least of the Pioneers’ worries – Warren County teams don’t seem to be intimidated by the Cavaliers or Lady Cavaliers. Our local teams are starting to plant their flags atop District 6AAA.
Before everybody starts taking a victory lap though, the Pioneers and Lady Pioneers will need to sustain success in the future. It may not be easy for everybody – athletes like volleyball standout Bethany Fye and two-sport star Isaiah Grayson are rare around these parts.
There’s plenty of hope though for baseball and softball to grow.
For the two teams who have year-ending losses still fresh on their minds, the cupboards won’t be bare next year. The Pioneers and Lady Pioneers return six starters apiece, many who earned all-district honors while helping their teams to 19 and 20 wins, respectively.
Domination on the diamond may not be ending in Warren County. This may just be the beginning.