Losing in the postseason isn't in the DNA of the Lady Pioneers. When the lights shine brightest, so does the WCHS softball team.
Warren County punched its ticket to the sectionals for the second straight season Monday, beating Rhea County - the District 5-4A champion, 12-9 on the road in the region semifinals. The Lady Pioneers will now get another chance to take down rival Coffee County Wednesday in the region final before playing for a bid in the state tournament Friday.
Senior Alyssa Mosley continued to excel in May, going 3-for-4 with four RBIs in Monday's win-or-go-home matchup with the Eagles. Jaz Ward added two hits while Addison Smith and Ky Damon both had one hit and two RBIs each as Warren County built a 12-0 lead with back-to-back, six-run innings in the fourth and fifth and weathered a rally in the final three Rhea County at-bats.
"This team competes and I love that about them. I'm proud of this team," said coach Gooby Martin, who has now led the team to the region or beyond five of the last six seasons. "It was great to get a win on the road against Rhea. We jumped out on them early and held on at the very end."
Warren County (16-11) saw Kora Forbes silence Rhea County for three innings, even pitching around a walk and error in the first that had runners on the corners before she escaped without harm on a groundout to Jessie Young on the hot corner.
When the fourth started, both teams were still searching for runs and Lady Pioneers found plenty in quick fashion.
Mosley started things out with a single, then Forbes reached on a dropped third strike to put two on and nobody out. Mosley scored on a passed ball two pitches later and Annabelle Reinitz, running for Forbes, swiftly got around the bases after an error to make it 2-0.
Once Rhea County started to show weakness, Warren County pounced. Ward made it 3-0 with an RBI single, then three straight walks - the last to Maggy Whiles - pushed another run across.
Mosley came up with two outs and the bases juiced and had her mind set on breaking the game open. She did just that, sending a deep fly ball to center that scored two and gave Warren County a commanding six-run lead.
It kept growing in the fifth.
After two quick outs, Warren County started another six-run rally, started by Ward reaching on a single and Young and freshman Maddox Adams drawing walks. Ward would get across on a wild pitch, then Whiles drew another walk to load the bases for Damon.
The sophomore slapper found the perfect pitch to drive, smashing a shot to center as Young and Adams scored. Damon took second on the throw and was on the move right after, ultimately making it 11-0 when she and Whiles scored on another two-out, two-run single by Mosley to center.
Smith capped the offensive explosion in the fifth with a single, pushing Warren County up 12-0.
Rhea County made the Lady Pioneers sweat by scoring three in the fifth, two more on the sixth and getting it to a three-run game in the seventh, but freshman Ceilee Gudat came in for the last out and threw some heat to end the game with a strikeout.
Warren County will now be heading to its third sectional since 2019 this week. Many may have felt like this group, which was having to replace three all-district players and District MVP Madison Hollis, could take a step back, but it has hit a peak at the perfect time.
"We had a lot of questions and a lot of holes to fill going into the season. We had ups and downs, but they continued to be positive and play for each other," said Martin. "This season has been a total team effort. We rely on each other and it feels like a different player steps up each night.
"Our success in the past has carried over. I think our girls expect to be there at the end and we know if we play a solid all-around game, we'll have a chance to win."
Warren County will take on Coffee County in Manchester for the region championship today at 6:30 p.m.