Home runs have been at a premium for the most part for the Lady Pioneers softball program, but this season has seen Warren County use the long ball to its advantage.
Lauren Wilkinson hit her sixth home run of the year and Taylor Grissom added her first of the season as the Lady Pioneers pounded Grundy County 17-1 Monday night to improve to 11-9.
Defense and pitching have been the staples of the Lady Pioneer program during the 11-year tenure of coach David Upton. With the majority of his lineup returning from a team with just one home run last season, Upton didn’t expect his offense to benefit from long bombs.
On Monday however, seven of the Lady Pioneers’ 17 runs were directly attributed to home runs. Grissom hit a three-run shot in the third inning, then Wilkinson capped off an exceptional performance by the Lady Pioneers offense with a grand slam in the top of the fifth.
Wilkinson’s home run easily cleared the left-field fence and ended up deep into the woods behind the field. It was one coach Upton knew was gone right off the bat.
“When Lauren hit that ball, it probably went 260 feet,” said Upton. “It was quite a shot.”
The home runs seemed to jump-start the offense, as every starter ended up with at least one hit. Grissom and Morgan Frye led the team with three hits and four RBIs apiece.
Wilkinson finished with four RBIs and two hits, as the junior tried out a new swing against the Lady Jackets. Wilkinson led off the fourth hitting left-handed, instead of her normal right-hand stance. Wilkinson slapped a ball toward shortstop and easily beat the throw. It’s a style coach Upton has tried out with his speedy shortstop, though Wilkinson’s recent power surge will probably keep her hitting right-handed for the time being.
Though the offensive performance looked great on paper, coach Upton knew the Lady Pioneers benefited from playing an inexperienced team which helped Warren County with errors.
“Grundy County is a really young team,” said Upton. “We weren’t trying to run up the score, but they would have one error, then another and the next thing you know, we’re hitting home runs and are up 17.”
While the offense had no trouble hitting, Gabi Keith and Monica Lane were busy flirting with a potential no-hitter. Keith pitched the first two innings, striking out five batters, including striking out the side in the second.
Keith gave way to Lane in the third and coach Upton’s sophomore had no trouble through the first two innings.
It wasn’t until the fifth inning when Warren County finally relinquished a hit. A short pop fly fell into right field, ruining the potential of the Lady Pioneers celebrating a perfect night.
It was the only negative coach Upton came away with from the game against Grundy County.
“We are still working on trying to make sure our team continues to keep its focus during games,” said Upton. “It’s one thing to not talk about no-hitters, but you’d like for it to be in the back of everybody’s mind and know to go all out and be in position to make plays.
“Sometimes you have to make a great play for a teammate to preserve a special moment for our team and for Gabi and Monica.”
Grundy County ended up scoring in the bottom of the fifth to prevent a shutout, but the Lady Jackets were unable to come up with a win against Warren County in their third try as the Lady Pioneers have now combined to beat Grundy County 32-2 in three games.
Chelsea Cope and Lauren Crothers both came up with their first multi-hit games, finishing with two hits apiece. Lane, Sarah Jacobs and Peytan Hall also had two hits and scored two runs each.
It was the first of six games for Warren County this week, as the Lady Pioneers hit the heart of their District 6-AAA schedule.
Warren County played host to the White County Warriorettes last night, with scores being unavailable at press time.
The Lady Pioneers make the return trip to White County tonight at 5 p.m.
Warren County welcomes Cumberland County tomorrow night at Warren County High School softball field. The Lady Pioneers and Lady Jets will play a doubleheader beginning at 5 p.m.