The senior class which fueled a region championship may be gone, but Gooby Martin isn’t expecting anything less from his Lady Pioneers.
Martin and the Warren County High School softball team got back to work this week with hopes of defending their region championship. Martin knows there will be positions to fill and production to replace, but he’s confident his roster still has plenty of talent.
“Our expectations will be the same as always. We want to win our district tournament. When you do that, you get the opportunity to compete in the region and play for those region championships,” said Martin. “We have a lot of holes to fill from last year’s senior class. They definitely will be missed, but we have some girls ready to step in and compete. I’m excited to see these new girls get their chance at the varsity level.”
College signees Hailey Wood, Emily Mikkola and Ashton Whiles are all preparing for their seasons at the next level, leaving Martin the task of replacing almost his entire infield. The Lady Pioneers also have to find a new right fielder with Grace Rains gone, as well as fill the innings Maddie Cantrell pitched in the circle the last few seasons.
It won’t be easy replacing the production of five all-district players.
“Those seniors meant a lot to our program, and not just last year. The four years they were here they bought into our coaching and believed in our system. They were also very talented,” said Martin. "But we have good players who have been playing behind them. Now it's their turn to step into the lineup and show what they can do. It's time for the next girl up."
The cupboard isn’t bare.
Madison Hollis returns for her sophomore season hoping to pick up right where she left off last spring. Hollis threw back-to-back shutouts in the region tournament last year, shutting down Walker Valley and Ooltewah to lead the Lady Pioneers to the school’s first region championship.
Along with being the team’s top pitcher, Hollis was stout at the plate as a freshman, posting a .452 batting average with five home runs and 23 RBIs.
Two-time, all-district choice Rhealee Johnson also returns to bolster the middle of the lineup. Johnson can fill either spot on the corners of the infield and is another heavy hitter. Johnson hit .396 with four home runs and 26 RBIs.
The starting lineup also includes former all-district selections Elia Atterson and catcher MaKenna Mason, who recently signed to play at Motlow next season. Mason is one of three seniors on the squad, along with Savannah Cox and Calyn Damon (.350 batting average in 25 games last year).
Pitcher Sadie Simmons, a junior, and utility player Shelby Roberts, a rising sophomore, also got plenty of experience on the varsity level last year.
The rest of the roster includes Kadence Ledbetter, Samantha Jennings, Kaydee Rains, Taylor Swan, Bella Cantrell, Aleya Esparza, Halo Armstrong, Marli McBride, Danika Reno, Mea Starkey, Bella Bain, Dallis Melton, Alyssa Mosley, Cadence Todd, Jessie Young and Emma Wood.
The Lady Pioneers will get their first game action Saturday, Feb. 29 in the Shelbyville playday. Warren County is set to begin its season Monday, March 9 at Coffee County.