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Martin returning to lead WCHS softball
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Gooby Martin, right, gives graduating senior Maddie Cantrell a hug at Thursday's banquet. Martin bid a tearful goodbye to a historic senior class, which helped the program win district and region championships in the last two seasons.
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Marli McBride fields at tryouts. She's one of eight sophomores on the WCHS roster.

Gooby Martin isn’t going anywhere. At least not for another year.

The Lady Pioneer softball coach informed his team at Thursday’s banquet he will be back for another season, then followed it up by posting a 24-player roster for next season’s WCHS softball squad.

Martin has taken time to make his future decisions after each of the last two seasons, both ending with taking the program to new heights. Ultimately, Martin’s love for coaching and for his Lady Pioneers will bring him back to the dugout next spring.

“Every coach I’ve ever had taught me something,” said Martin Thursday. “I learned from them and I want these girls to learn from me. I like to think they need some of my guidance, and I know I need them (in my life).” 

Warren County is coming off a 20-win season which included the team’s first region victory, first region championship and first trip to sectionals. The Lady Pioneers were one of the last 16 teams in the state playing, ultimately falling to Siegel one step away from the state tournament.

The Lady Pioneers lose three seniors from last year’s squad who signed college scholarships – Hailey Wood, Emily Mikkola and Ashton Whiles – and two more who earned all-district recognition during their careers – Grace Rains and Maddie Cantrell.

Martin knows it won’t be easy, but he believes the standards set over the last three years will hold players accountable.

“We have big shoes to fill. I’m proud of the girls we’re losing. They’ve helped establish this program as one that is talked about across the Midstate,” said Martin, who has guided the Lady Pioneers to a regular-season district title (2017), district tournament title (2018) and region championship in the last three seasons. “Next season, we’ll have players who can step up. They’ve seen the work it takes day-in and day-out to be successful. We’ll get back to work soon.”

The Lady Pioneer roster will feature three seniors next spring – MaKenna Mason, Savannah Cox and Calyn Damon. Mason was an all-district honoree as a sophomore, while Damon and Cox have made spot starts over the last two years.

The junior class is headlined by two-time, all-district choice Rhealee Johnson. Elia Atterson also returns after an all-district campaign as a sophomore, while Sadie Simmons threw the second-most innings for Warren County in the circle last season. 

Other juniors, who could all be in line for more playing time next spring, include Kadence Ledbetter, Samantha Jennings, Kaydee Rains and Taylor Swan.

Madison Hollis will also be back after pitching the Lady Pioneers to a region title as a freshman. Hollis was in the circle for back-to-back shutouts of Walker Valley and Ooltewah, historic victories for the program. 

Hollis is part of a jam-packed sophomore class which features Bella Cantrell, Aleya Esparza, Halo Armstrong, Marli McBride, Danika Reno, Shelby Roberts and Mea Starkey.

The six-player freshman class, many who helped WCMS to a second-place finish in the CTC, includes Bella Bain, Dallis Melton, Alyssa Mosley, Cadence Todd, Jessie Young and Emma Wood.