The Warren County High School softball team has gotten away from marking down moral victories, but Thursday night’s game against the Coffee County Lady Raiders was just that.
The Lady Pioneers battled District 6-AAA’s best team for four innings before eventually succumbing to the Lady Raiders 4-0 in Manchester.
Warren County (10-9) came into the season prepared to take the next step after finishing last in the district regular season last year, but rallying to finish second in the tournament and qualifying for regionals.
Standing in the Lady Pioneers way has always been Coffee County, which boasts one of the state’s top pitchers in Casey Vincent. The Lady Raiders have yet to be defeated in District 6-AAA, which is in its second year of existence with the current five teams.
Vincent was in the circle for Coffee County on senior night and she did what she does best, dominate. The Lady Pioneers managed only one hit, a single by Monica Lane in the fifth, while striking out 12 times.
It was a performance at the plate coach David Upton knows won’t cut it against one of the state’s best teams.
“It’s pretty simple and has been said plenty, but you can’t win games when you don’t score,” said Upton. “Our girls showed a lot of fight and stood up to Coffee County, but we couldn’t string hits together.”
Coffee County already had one win under its belt against Warren County this season, a 10-0 victory over the Lady Pioneers at Warren County High School softball field.
The Lady Pioneers used the last outing as motivation, as many of the players stepped up their play following the embarrassing loss at home.
One player who took the loss more personally than any was pitcher Gabi Keith, who was rocked in the earlier outing. Keith threw a complete game against the Lady Raiders once again Thursday, but this time she was much more effective.
Keith only had one bad inning, the fifth, but it was then Coffee County scored all its runs. The Lady Raiders opened the inning with a walk and a single, then the game-changer followed.
Coffee County’s lead-off batter Taylor Gullett, who had grounded out in her two previous at-bats, hit a three-run home run to put the Lady Raiders on the board. It was followed by a double and RBI single, which rounded out the scoring.
The Lady Pioneers offense was nearly nonexistent, as only four runners reached base. Even when Warren County got on base, they had trouble staying there.
Lane’s single in the fifth inning kept the Lady Pioneers from being no hit, but she was caught moments later straying too far from the base.
The same thing happened to Lauren Wilkinson in the sixth inning. Wilkinson reached base for the second time on an error to begin the inning. Wilkinson hit a hard line drive and the throw sailed into right field, giving the speedy shortstop plenty of time to make it to second.
With the infield drawing in to defend Lindsey Rowland, Wilkinson began taking big leads at second base. Coffee County took notice, sneaking in the center fielder after Rowland drew a walk.
Wilkinson was halfway between second and third when Coffee County’s catcher threw down to second. Wilkinson initially started to third, but then broke back to second and was tagged out. It was a play where both player and coach fell asleep.
“Lauren was taking a good lead because the infielders weren’t covering the base,” said Upton. “By the time I noticed the center fielder sneaking in it was too late. We were late to react and they made a good play.”
Although the loss was tough to handle because of the offensive performance, coach Upton was very pleased with the other two phases.
“We played spectacular defense and Gabi pitched a heck of a game,” said Upton. “Our defense stepped up and we turned a few double plays and limited their opportunities.”
The Lady Pioneers play host to White County on Tuesday at 7 p.m.