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Pioneers look to put Bears in hibernation
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Earning a region bid has become old news for the Pioneers. The WCHS baseball team is focused on taking the next step as a program.

For the fifth time in seven years, the Pioneers are set to take part in the region tournament. Warren County will travel to Bradley Central Monday, hoping to win its 6 p.m. matchup with the District 5AAA champion Bears.

It won’t be an easy task, though first-year coach Trice Powers isn’t planning to hold anything back  while trying to take down the Bears, winners of nine of their last 11.

“Everybody is available. It’s a kitchen sink game – whatever it takes to get the job done,” said Powers.

Warren County (19-12) is also entering the region playing its best ball. A 1-0 loss to Cookeville in the district championship was a blip on the radar for the Pioneers, who had won their previous 10 district games and topped McCallie – considered one of the top teams in the state – in the final week of the regular season.

Bradley Central (22-11-1) also has its share of impressive wins, including an 8-1 victory over Walker Valley in the 5AAA tournament finals. The Bears will likely turn to No. 1 starter Blaze Benton, a senior lefty who has compiled a 7-2 record with a 1.49 ERA this season. Andy Bunch (7-1, 1.07 ERA) and Riley Black, who won the District 5AAA championship game on the mound, could also be available.

Bradley Central boasts a strong offense, led by Dylan Standifer (Lee University commit), Pete Williams (Cleveland State) and District 5AAA player of the year Preston Taylor.

“They’re one of the hottest teams in Chattanooga,” said Powers. “It’s going to be a good test.”

The Pioneers will likely counter with District 6AAA pitcher of the year Tyler Hollingsworth (7-1, 1.42 ERA). Warren County will also count on offensive production from all-district honorees Ethan Smith (.414 batting average, team-high 34 runs), Brooks Helton (.344, 28 RBIs) and Hunter Adams (.305, 25 runs, 12 RBIs).

The Pioneers and Bears have faced three common opponents this season: Ooltewah, Rhea County and Mt. Juliet. Warren County was 3-2 against those opponents, while Bradley Central finished 2-2.

The two teams met last year, with Bradley Central winning 12-6 in the Playing for a Cure tournament in Sevierville.