At the end of March, the last thing people assumed was District 6AAA supremacy on the local diamonds. The Pioneers were mired in a nine-game losing streak and were 3-12 overall. The Lady Pioneers were 6-5-1, a far cry from the team which had rolled to a district championship just 10 months prior.
Everything changed once the calendar flipped to April.
In the two-plus weeks since, the Pioneers have won 9 of their last 12 games, including 4-of-5 against district foes. In the same period, the Lady Pioneers have gone 7-2 and started to hit the ball like they did last spring. Improved play comes with higher expectations.
If betting odds existed in high school sports, both Warren County teams would be the likely favorites to win their respective district tournaments. The Pioneers currently lead the district standings after beating Stone Memorial 14-0 on the road Monday, while the Lady Pioneers have a chance to move into a tie atop the softball standings with a win Thursday in Cookeville.
Both programs ascended in predictable fashion. They relied on their heavy hitters to do the work.
With his shutout Monday, Brooks Helton has now pitched 15 innings in district play and surrendered just four earned runs. The Pioneers are 3-0 in those games, having won by a combined score of 39-5.
Helton’s pitching prowess is only outdone by his hitting. The senior currently sports a .769 batting average in five district games. He’s hit three home runs and has 11 RBIs as well, cementing himself as the runaway favorite for district player of the year honors.
Lady Pioneer Hailey Wood knows a thing or two about that accolade, having won it last year. Wood raised her average to .385 over the weekend, going 9-for-16 as her team went 5-1 in the Ravenwood Classic. She’s even better in four district games, sporting a .467 average as the Lady Pioneers are 3-1 with three run-rule victories.
If Wood doesn’t repeat as District 6AAA player of the year, it may be because a teammate takes the honor. Ashton Whiles is hitting .443 with five home runs and 27 RBIs, while freshman Madison Hollis is racking (.420, 3 HRs, 14 RBIs) at the plate and pitching lights out (2.59 ERA, 45 Ks in 51 innings pitched).
Both teams came into the season believing they could win district championships behind star-studded senior classes. Those hopes seemed misplaced in March, but are growing again in April.
Everything will be decided in May.