Gabi Keith barely missed a no-hitter against the White County Warriorettes Tuesday, but she wasn’t letting the chance slip away again.
Keith threw a no-hitter against the Cumberland County Lady Jets in a five-inning game, then followed it up with a shutout in another five-inning game as the Warren County High School softball team pulled off a sweep of its District 6-AAA rivals.
Lauren Wilkinson hit her eighth home run to help back up Keith’s no-hitter in a 2-0 win to begin the doubleheader, while Taylor Grissom hit her second bomb to give the Lady Pioneers a cushion in a 3-0 victory in the night cap.
Keith’s brilliant pitching and the team’s home run hitting have been the keys to victory in the Lady Pioneers’ three-game winning streak over District 6-AAA opponents.
Keith has allowed just one run in her last 17 innings and five hits. In the Lady Pioneers’ first game Thursday, Keith was practically untouchable.
Coach David Upton’s junior pitcher began the game with a walk, then went on to retire the next six batters. The only time Keith had trouble throwing was in the third, when she fielded a ground ball and sailed the throw too high for Grissom at first base.
The error didn’t phase Keith though. She followed it up with a strikeout, then got a ground out and fly out to end the inning. Keith finished with four strikeouts in the first game and added eight more in the second to bring her total for the season to 94.
Solid pitching by both sides put a premium on runs in the first game, but Wilkinson made sure Keith had the run support she needed to close out the Lady Jets.
After receiving medical attention to close up a gash on her leg in the top of the third when a Lady Jet slid into her, Wilkinson took out her frustrations at the plate. Wilkinson sent a 1-1 pitch sailing over the right-field fence, which was her third home run in three games.
Chelsea Cope, who was 2-2 in the first game, scored the insurance run for the Lady Pioneers in the fourth when she came around on a sacrifice by Peytan Hall.
Coach Upton was extremely pleased by the performance in the circle by Keith following the games Thursday.
“Gabi really stepped up for us,” said Upton. “She shut them down in the first game, then came up with big strikeouts in the second game to end rallies.”
Cumberland County was quick to end any drama of back-to-back no-hitters when Lindsey led off the second game with a single, but Keith battled out of a jam to give her team a spark.
Following a lead-off single and error, the Lady Jets found themselves with runners on second and third with no outs. Keith calmly struck out the next batter, then got the clean-up hitter to pop up to Frye behind the plate for two outs.
Sarah Jacobs snagged a sharply hit ball down the line and threw to Grissom for the final out, extinguishing Cumberland County’s chance to score.
Grissom led off the bottom of the second with a bang, sending the first pitch of the inning floating over the center-field fence. Grissom has now reached base safely in six of the past seven games.
The Lady Jets tried rallying back by starting the third with a walk and single, followed by a double steal to move two runners into scoring position. Keith had the answer though, as she struck out two batters and got a pop out to Hall in right field to retire the side.
Keith struck out the side in the fourth. It was followed by the Lady Pioneers finding enough offense to give themselves some breathing room.
Rowland singled, then promptly stole second and third. Jacobs followed with a walk, then stole second as well.
Grissom scored Rowland with a single, then Frye followed with a sacrifice fly to bring in Jacobs and give Warren County a 3-0 lead.
Keith made quick work of the Lady Jets in the top of the fifth as the Lady Pioneers improved to 4-2 in District 6-AAA.
The district race was where coach Upton kept his focus last week and a three-game winning streak eased the coach’s mind.
“We got two big wins for us against Cumberland County,” said Upton. “It puts us in the driver’s seat for second place in the district and finishing in the top two was one of our goals before the season.
“I was really proud of our girls’ attitudes Thursday. They played two of the best games I’ve seen this season.”
The Lady Pioneers will put their three-game winning streak on the line tomorrow night when they travel to Cookeville for another District 6-AAA game. The game is scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m.
They will complete their district season with an away game at White County Tuesday. First pitch in Sparta is scheduled for 7 p.m.