The Warren County Middle School baseball team won the regular season in the Central Tennessee Conference, but the Pioneers had to settle for second best in the tournament. After battling out of the loser’s bracket, the Pioneers lost Sunday in the CTC tournament finals 18-6 to Franklin North
Warren County entered last week’s tournament, which was held at Warren County Middle School and was postponed twice due to rain, as the No. 1 seed. An upset loss in their first game to Franklin South dropped the Pioneers into the loser’s bracket, but Warren County was able to rally back with three straight wins before falling in the finals.
Warren County was hoping to continue its winning ways last Wednesday when it started play in the CTC tournament, but Franklin South had other plans for the Pioneers.
A five-run fifth inning powered Franklin South to a 5-4 upset that put the Pioneers in a bad spot. In tournament play, pitchers were only allowed 12 innings and three extra games to make the finals meant coach David Martin would have to budget wisely to save his pitching staff for the finals.
The Pioneers returned to their home field Saturday and coach Martin turned to seventh-graders Tyler Prater and Cole Estes against White County. Prater and Estes combined to pitch a shutout as the Pioneers prevailed 11-0 to eliminate White County.
Colby Elkins ignited the Pioneer offense with a three-run home run in the first inning. The first baseman would go on to finish the game with two hits, which shared the team lead with lead-off batter Isaac Golden.
The win moved Warren County into a Saturday night game against Coffee County and the Pioneers would need an epic comeback to advance.
The Pioneers went into the final inning trailing 5-3, but Krojhn Calbert put the final touches on a three-run rally that kept Warren County’s chances of a title alive.
A.D. Majors started the rally with a one-out single. Elkins followed by reaching on an error before Trayton Rackley made it a one-run game by scoring Majors with a single.
Cameron Shaw, who earned the victory by pitching the final four innings, drew a walk to load the bases for Calbert. The eighth-grade designated hitter was hitless in his first nine at-bats in the CTC tournament, but came up huge in the clutch for the Pioneers.
Calbert blasted the ball through the left side of the Coffee County infield and coach Martin decided to wave in the winning run. Elkins scored with ease from third and Estes, who entered as a pinch runner for Rackley, never slowed down as he scored from second to win the game 6-5.
Rallying became a tradition for the Pioneers after the big win Saturday night. In the team’s first game Sunday, Warren County came back from an 8-0 deficit in the first inning against Franklin South to win a 17-13 slugfest.
The Pioneers’ title hopes looked bleak when Franklin South finished batting in the top of the first, but the team wouldn’t quit fighting back. Warren County answered back with two runs in the first, then sent 14 batters to the plate in the second en route to a nine-run inning.
During the second-inning surge, Lucas Rogers drove in four runs on a two-run single and two-run double. Coach Martin also rolled the dice with a suicide squeeze that worked wonderfully. Ridge Brewer laid down the bunt and Elkins was able to slide in safely at home. Errors and walks also helped as Warren County took an 11-8 lead after two innings.
Any chances of a Franklin South rally ended when Elkins belted his second three-run home run of the tournament in the fourth and Golden drove in two with a single in the fifth to make it 17-9. Prater, who started the game on the mound but left after recording only one out, earned the save when he returned to pitch the final four innings. Majors was the winning pitcher, going two innings and striking out two.
Even with the back-to-back comeback wins, the Pioneers still faced an uphill battle in the championship. Needing two wins to take the title, Warren County couldn’t even force an “if necessary” game.
Franklin North smashed three home runs, including two in the fourth inning, to win the championship game 18-6.
Franklin North took a 5-0 lead in the first inning, but the Pioneers cut the deficit to three in the bottom of the inning when Golden and Rogers scored on errors.
It would be as close as the game would get as Franklin North used the long ball to push its lead to double digits. Two home runs in the fourth and one more in the fifth gave the visitors a 12-2 lead.
Run-scoring singles by Calbert and Golden in the fifth extended the game, but Franklin North won by run rule with six more runs in the sixth.
It was the second straight year the Pioneers placed second in the CTC tournament. Warren County ended the season 16-4 overall.