The Lady Pioneers have proven they can win pitcher’s duels. It seems the Warren County High School softball team is equally adept in slugfests.
Warren County won for the fourth straight time Tuesday, downing Rhea County 9-7 on its home field.
“We got the bats going and turned it on,” said coach Gooby Martin. “It wasn’t our sharpest night pitching or defensively, so we have some things where we can improve. Hitting really carried us through, which is big in district games.”
Hailey Wood set the tone, with the junior lead-off hitter leading the team with three hits. She started the game by slapping a shot down the left-field line, easily cruising in for a stand-up double.
Wood swiped third, then scored on Hope Mullican’s sacrifice fly to third base to make it 1-0 early.
The lead-off hitter’s blazing speed has made a difference all year, with her scoring 25 times in 17 games. Her coach knows she’s a constant threat.
“Hailey’s speed makes her dangerous. She’s always alert and looking for ways to make plays,” said Martin.
Rhea County touched up starter Maddie Cantrell with three runs in the top of the third, but Warren County quickly responded in the bottom of the frame.
Bri Young singled in a run before Cantrell helped her own cause with a sacrifice fly to tie the game at 3-3.
Wood got back in the action in the fourth. Her two-out double sparked a three-run rally, with Emily Mikkola keeping the momentum when her hot shot toward left field caromed off the shortstop’s glove.
Mikkola promptly stole second and scored on Mullican’s single into left. Another error, this time on a deep fly into left off Kyra Hillis’ bat, allowed Mullican to score and make it 6-3.
The Lady Pioneers tacked on three more runs in the fifth, getting RBI singles from Wood and Mikkola to push the advantage to 9-3.
Freshman Rhealee Johnson was tasked to finish the game, entering in the fifth inning with a three-run cushion. After the lead swelled to six, Johnson ran into a little trouble in the top of the sixth inning.
Johnson had a chance to escape when she forced a two-out grounder, but an error extended the inning, as well as allowing Rhea County to score. On the next at-bat, Rhea County scored two more on a triple into the gap.
Warren County saw its lead cut in half, and the Lady Eagles would threaten again in the final frame.
After a lead-off strikeout, Johnson walked one and surrendered back-to-back singles. With the bases loaded, Rhea County got a fly ball into right field that would bring in one. On the same sacrifice fly, the runner at second got too aggressive, leaving early to try to take third. Warren County allowed the run to score, but challenged the play at second, getting a called out to end the game.
Mikkola and Young finished with two hits each. Mullican, Johnson, MaKenna Mason, Ashton Whiles and Grace Rains added one hit apiece.