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Lady Pioneers win first tourney title
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Jeffery Simmons photo Coach Gooby Martin gets showered with water after leading the Lady Pioneers to the first tournament title in the program's 34-year history.

It's never a close call when the Warren County High School softball team makes history. The Lady Pioneers always send a statement.
Cookeville happened to be the recipient again Thursday.

Warren County claimed its first tournament championship in the 34-year history of the program, crushing Cookeville 17-2 a night after downing the Lady Cavaliers 15-9 to force a second game.

It was the second season in a row the Lady Pioneers won a title. Last season, Warren County took home its first regular season title, clinching with a 20-3 demolishing of the same Lady Cavaliers.

Coach Gooby Martin has overseen the program's growth the last four years, culminating in two titles. It's the type of progress he hoped would come when he took over in the summer of 2014.

"We work to get a little better each year. We want to continue growing our success," said Martin. "It's how we've built the program. I'm so happy for the girls, they've been so coachable the whole way."

Thursday's victory was bolstered by three players with the most experience, as well as two who weren't around to celebrate last year's blowout.
Seniors Kyra Hillis, Hope Mullican and Lexie Chadwell all made impacts. Hillis finished 3-for-4 with two RBIs, including a run-scoring double in the first and ignited a five-run third inning with a RBI single to right.

Honored with the offensive player of the year award following the game, Mullican showed why she was a terror for opposing pitchers all season. Mullican started the scoring with a RBI double down the right-field line, part of a 2-for-5 night where the senior drove in three.

Freshmen Rhealee Johnson and Elia Atterson were equally as impressive.

Johnson earned the win by tossing three innings of two-hit ball, allowing just one run to a Cookeville lineup which had scored 39 runs in four previous meetings with the Lady Pioneers. Johnson also starred at the dish, going 2-for-2 with two RBIs. Johnson belted a triple in the first inning to put Warren County ahead 3-0, then followed with a shot off the center-field fence for a double in the third.

After playing sparsely through the season, Atterson made the most of her opportunity in the finals.

The freshman centerfielder finished 2-for-3, including a two-run double in the third which put Warren County in control at 8-1. She added another double in the fifth, pushing the advantage to 10-1.

Maddie Cantrell was tasked with protecting the lead in the fourth and got the job done. The junior was spotless in relief, keeping the Lady Cavaliers off the scoreboard the final four innings.

Warren County poured it on in the sixth, plating seven to claim a run-rule victory. MaKenna Mason provided the exclamation point, connecting on a triple with the bases loaded to score Ashton Whiles, Savannah Cox and Samantha Jennings.

Mullican also connected on a two-out, two-run double in the frame, breaking Cookeville's will while the Lady Pioneer crowd roared.
The ending came swift, with Mason's base-clearing triple serving as a knockout punch in an offensive onslaught.

"These games are like heavyweight fights. We just kept punching," said Martin.

Cantrell closed the game with a strikeout, igniting a celebration over three decades in the making.

"It was exciting," said Cantrell. "I was locked in on MaKenna and just focused on hitting my spots."

The victory moves the Lady Pioneers into the regionals, where they will play host to Walker Valley Monday. The contest is set to begin at 5:30 p.m.