It’ll be a long offseason of wondering “what if” for the Warren County High School softball team. What if the Lady Pioneers would’ve stayed healthy and didn’t have so many base-running blunders in their final game? What if a pivotal call had gone their way or if their senior caption would’ve gotten one last swing? What if will always be the question when the team thinks of what could’ve been in 2013.
The Lady Pioneers ended their season Tuesday with a heart-breaking, extra-inning loss in the District 6-AAA tournament. Cumberland County beat Warren County 3-2, ending the Lady Pioneers’ year with a 7-26 record.
It was a trying year for Warren County, which came into the season trying to replace seven senior starters from an 18-win team last season. Making matters worse for a young team were injuries that ended the season for senior outfielders Mahaley Keele and Allison Bond and sophomore second baseman Liza Harvey.
By the time tournament play rolled around, Warren County coach David Upton was starting six freshmen on a team that finished the regular season 4-4 in district play.
In Tuesday’s game, the ebbs and flows that go along with having a young team were evident.
Warren County had to survive an early rally by the Lady Jets in the first inning as senior Monica Lane allowed back-to-back, two-out hits that put runners on second and third. The Lady Pioneers emerged unscathed as Abbi Reyes camped under a fly ball in left field for the final out.
The Lady Pioneers had a golden opportunity to score in the bottom of the first after junior shortstop Samantha Weeter doubled and stole third with one out, but base running was a problem early and often. On a fly ball to center field by Livia Walker, Weeter left a split-second early while attempting to tag and had to be called back to the base by her coach.
Lindsey Cox struck out to end the inning with Weeter on third, one of seven runners who would be stranded during the game.
Lane settled down after the first-inning struggles with the Lady Jets to continue her dominance over Cumberland County. Lane came into Tuesday’s game with three victories in her career against the Lady Jets where she had allowed one run in 19 innings.
The Lady Jets would continue to swing and miss against the senior Lady Pioneer hurler for five innings while Warren County took the lead in the fourth inning.
Walker led off with a walk, then moved around to third when Cox singled in front of first base. Cox collided with a Lady Jet at first base and the ball trickled into right field. Walker moved up to third and Cox joined her in scoring position by stealing second.
Emma Holmes came up with the biggest hit for the Lady Pioneers when her two-out, two-run single brought around Walker and Cox to make it 2-0 in Warren County’s favor.
Cumberland County wouldn’t go away though. A lead-off triple in the sixth inning gave the Lady Jets a big boost, but a strikeout and line out to Bailey Walker in right field quickly made it two outs. Cumberland County finally broke through against Lane as a dribbler went through the middle of the infield to plate the Lady Jets’ first run.
Still leading 2-1, Warren County just wanted to get out of the inning without any more damage. It looked promising when the Lady Jet tried to steal second, only to be beaten to the bag by the ball thrown by Lady Pioneer catcher Bailey Walker. Despite Weeter laying what looked to be a clean tag on the runner before she touched second, the field umpire called the runner safe.
It proved to be a costly call for Warren County when the next batter doubled down to left-field line to tie the game at 2-2.
The Lady Pioneers got a chance to take the lead back in the bottom of the sixth, but running mistakes doomed the team. Following singles by Weeter and Livia Walker, Warren County had runners on the corners with one out. Walker tried stealing second, but the Lady Jets made what looked to be a throw down. Weeter was sent home, only to be thrown out by three steps when the shortstop stepped in front of the catcher’s throw and quickly fired it back to the plate for the out.
Walker also had a chance to score on a two-out single by Ramirez, but was held up at third after getting a slow start on the flare over second base. Chelsey Chandler struck out swinging to end the inning.
The game went into extra innings with neither team scoring in the seventh or eighth innings. Cumberland County loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the ninth, but Ramirez made a diving attempt at third and threw home to save one run.
The next batter flew to center field, where Chandler was able to make the snag. The fly ball was enough to bring in a run though, putting the Lady Pioneers behind 3-2.
Warren County had one final chance to rally in the bottom of the ninth. Holmes continued her big night at the plate with a two-out single. Coach Upton called on Lexi Locke to pinch hit and the freshman did her job by drawing a walk after battling for 11 pitches.
Martin stepped to the plate, with the team’s top hitter standing in the on-deck circle. Lane wanted a chance to hit for the win, but didn’t get the chance as Martin flew out to end the game.
Lane finished her career by taking the loss against Cumberland County. Lane pitched all nine innings, giving up three runs on nine hits while striking out five. Lane also had one of the team’s nine hits.
Holmes led the team with three hits, followed by Weeter with two. Cox, Ramirez and Livia Walker had one hit each.