When the Warren County High School softball team started the season losing 12 of its first 13 games, including shutout losses to Coffee County and Cookeville, most assumed the Lady Pioneers were heading to a last-place finish in District 6-AAA. An influx of freshmen in the starting lineup and the pitching of senior Monica Lane have turned the tides.
The Lady Pioneers won their third straight district game Wednesday, beating White County 6-0 on the road. The victory helped the team improve to 3-2 in District 6-AAA, tying Coffee County for second place.
Injuries and players leaving the program forced freshmen into the starting lineup earlier than expected, but lately the team has got in a groove as six starting freshmen have played well around their senior leader in the circle.
Lane continued her dominant run in district play Wednesday, throwing her second straight complete-game shutout in the span of three days. Lane struck out 10 Warriorettes and allowed just four hits to earn her fourth win. In her last three district games, Lane has allowed one run over 21 innings.
The Lady Pioneers needed Lane to be sharp Wednesday as the offense was slow to get started once again. For the second straight game, Warren County went deep into the game without getting a hit.
In Crossville Monday, the Lady Pioneers didn’t get a hit until the fourth inning. Against the Warriorettes, freshman Livia Walker doubled to start the second inning, but another runner wouldn’t reach base until the start of the sixth inning.
When the sixth inning started, the game was still knotted 0-0. Lane had kept the Warriorettes at bay, getting eight of her 10 strikeouts in the first three innings. The Lady Pioneers also turned their second double play this season in the fourth inning as center fielder Chelsey Chandler tracked down a fly ball in the gap, then threw to first where a White County runner had strayed too far from the bag.
The Lady Pioneer offense finally awoke in the sixth inning as the team showed patience at the plate. Lindsey Cox and Samantha Weeter each drew two-out walks, giving Warren County an opportunity to score. Both players reached scoring position on a wild pitch, giving Lane a chance to help her own cause at the plate.
Lane fouled off several would-be third strikes before putting the ball in play. Her slow roller to shortstop was the potential third out, but Lane showed off her wheels and beat the throw to first. Cox came in to score, giving the Lady Pioneers a 1-0 lead.
The run demoralized the Warriorettes, who made big mistakes to let the game get away. A wild pitch brought in Weeter, then a dropped ball in center field scored another Lady Pioneer run.
With a 3-0 lead to work with, Lane made quick work of the Warriorettes in the sixth inning. After retiring White County in the sixth, Weeter added an exclamation point in the seventh.
Freshman Emma Holmes started the seventh with a single and was joined on the base paths by Jordin Milanovich and Bailey Walker following infield singles. Weeter stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs looking to do more damage.
Weeter jumped on an outside pitch, rifling a shot down the right-field line. The bases would clear, but Weeter narrowly missed an inside-the-park grand slam. While rounding third with time to score, Weeter tripped and was eventually tagged out in a rundown. Teammates greeted Weeter with laughs when she got to the dugout mad she didn’t get her first career home run.
White County went down in order in the bottom of the seventh, falling to 0-3 in district play in the process. The Lady Pioneers three-game district winning streak stayed intact as Lane, Weeter, Holmes, Milanovich, Livia Walker and Bailey Walker each finished with one hit apiece.
The Lady Pioneers will return to play Friday with a home game against Tullahoma. Action is set to start at 6 p.m. Thursday’s District 6-AAA game at Cookeville was postponed due to rain and a make-up date has yet to be scheduled.