The Pioneers have new uniforms and a new head coach, but Thursday’s home opener at Patrick Ramsey Field looked eerily similar to the struggles of last year’s Warren County High School baseball team.
The Pioneers built an early three-run lead, but watched it evaporate when Lincoln County scored five runs in the sixth inning and ultimately went on to defeat Warren County 11-4 in both teams’ season opener.
Warren County was hoping to get off to a hot start following last year’s five-win season, one which saw the Pioneers struggle holding onto leads.
Thursday’s game wasn’t the outcome any Warren County player or fan wanted to see, as the Pioneers opened the game up 3-0 after three innings before letting the Falcons battle back.
In the debut of first-year head coach Joey Haston, Warren County looked sharp in the early innings. Starter Roth Nunley went through the first three innings unscathed, showing a strong command of the strike zone and the ability to get a number of easy ground balls.
Warren County’s offense also got a spark when senior co-captain Christian Gonzalez began the 2011 season with a single into center field. Gonzalez would advance around the bases and score on Dylan Barnes’ ground ball to give the Pioneers an early lead.
Barnes, who reached base on his fielder’s choice, would score on an RBI ground out by Ben Wilson to put Warren County up 2-0.
The lead would expand to three in the second inning. Gonzalez once again found himself right in the middle of the action, as the Pioneers’ leadoff batter drove in Daulton Foster with a ground out to the Falcons first baseman.
Lincoln County finally put a dent on the scoreboard in the fourth inning, scoring one run. The Falcons continued their hot hitting in the fifth inning, as Nunley was taken out of the game after giving up three runs.
With Warren County finding itself trailing for the first time, the Pioneers battled back to knot the game at four in the bottom of the fifth. Catcher Garrison Holmes proved why he is called on as the Pioneers’ clean-up hitter when he doubled into the right-field gap, scoring Barnes.
Senior Caleb Underhill, who came in for Nunley in the fifth inning, was knocked around in the sixth as Lincoln County put the game away. Underhill gave up five runs on four hits before being relieved by Spencer Pryor on the mound.
The damage had been done though, as Warren County’s early offense didn’t translate to the late innings. The Pioneers were held scoreless in the final two innings, managing just one hit as the Falcons pulled away for a seven-run win.
Coach Haston is optimistic his team can bounce back from the early defeat, and the former Pioneer pitcher thinks his rotation will be key to future success.
“We got more from Roth than I expected, especially this early in the year. He did a lot of good things for us,” said Haston. “When we can develop a solid rotation, along with a set order in the bullpen, I think we’ll be much better.”
Underhill took the loss on the mound, going one inning and allowing five runs. Nunley finished with three strikeouts in his first start, while allowing four runs.
Gonzalez led the Pioneers at the plate with two hits and a RBI. Senior Caleb Northcutt and David Lee had two hits each, while Holmes and Wilson finished with one RBI each.
The Pioneers return to action tomorrow when they play host to Coffee County. Monday’s game at Patrick Ramsey Field will be Warren County’s District 6-AAA opener and will begin at 6 p.m.
Tullahoma tops Pioneers
On Friday, Warren County traveled to Tullahoma and ran into a talented bunch of Wildcats. The Pioneers played three innings of solid ball, but were ultimately run-ruled 15-5 by Tullahoma.
Warren County took a 4-0 lead in the top of the second, but the Wildcats answered with four of their own in the bottom of the inning. After the Pioneers jumped up 5-4 in their next at-bat, Tullahoma ran off 11 straight runs to put the game away.
Northcutt had a solid outing from the plate, finishing 2-for-3 with three RBIs and scoring two runs. Gonzalez had the Pioneers’ other RBI, scoring Northcutt on a single in the second inning.
Micah McColloch took the loss on the hill for Warren County, pitching four innings and striking out three while allowing 13 runs. Brett Mullican got his first action on the bump for coach Haston’s team, pitching to the final five batters.