The only mention of state baseball tournaments before the start of this season was in reference of the 20th anniversary of the 1992 state-champion Pioneers.
Nobody envisioned the current crop of Pioneers, who came into the season with 17 wins in three seasons, to be playing in late May. But with one more win, Warren County will be in the state tournament.
The Pioneers take on the Riverdale Warriors tonight at 6 p.m. and the winner will advance to the BlueCross Spring Fling tournament held in Murfreesboro next week.
Warren County (21-18) will get a sneak peak at playing in Murfreesboro when the Pioneers travel to take on the Warriors tonight.
The Pioneers will reprise their usual role of underdogs when the team takes the field against the 29-10 District 7-AAA champions who feature a roster loaded with future college players.
Warren County earned its way into sectionals by beating the Ooltewah Owls 4-3 in nine innings Monday, but lost the right to host sectionals when the Pioneers were beaten 10-7 by Walker Valley on Wednesday.
Riverdale defeated the Columbia Lions 1-0 to begin regional play, then won a regional championship late Wednesday night when the Warriors defeated the Tullahoma Wildcats 11-5 in 10 innings.
First-year Warren County head coach Adam Childs knows the challenge the Warriors present, but he feels like anything can happen in a win-or-go-home game.
“Riverdale is going to be a tough opponent, but they are 14-18-year-old kids like we are and can make mistakes,” said Childs. “We just need to go play our game, put pressure on them and continue to fight.
“Anything can happen in a one-game playoff. If we play like we are capable, I think we can give ourselves a good shot at winning.”
Warren County has won with scrappy defense, solid pitching and an opportunistic offense. Nothing has come easy to the Pioneers, who don’t feature a player currently signed to play at the next level.
Riverdale has dominated with a number of players already making plans for their future baseball career.
The Warriors are led by Jonathan King, a Georgia Tech signee, who pitched a complete-game, two-hit shutout against Columbia while striking out 11.
King could be available to pitch tonight, but would be going on three days rest. Collin Snider pitched one inning against the Wildcats but was removed to give the Warriors another option on the mound tonight.
Ronnie Stephens, who will play at Columbia State next season, and Jackson State signee Taylor Walker lead a potent Riverdale offense.
Stephens hit a home run in the sixth inning against Tullahoma Wednesday that tied the game at four. Walker had a two-run double in a six-run 10th inning that put away the Wildcats in the regional finals.
The Pioneers will more than likely send a player on three days rest to the mound tonight against the Warriors. Senior Micah McColloch, who earned the win Monday against the Owls after throwing three innings, looks like the potential starter.
Logan McCormack could also be an option as the senior has taken the mound in the biggest games of the postseason. McCormack pitched a complete game against Coffee County in the District 6-AAA tournament and threw six innings against the Owls Monday.
With two seniors potentially on the mound, along with five more in the starting lineup, coach Childs doesn’t think complacency will accompany his team on the trip to Murfreesboro.
“I don’t think being complacent will be a problem,” said Childs. “It is great to be in this situation, but we don’t want this to be our last game. These seniors and everybody else have worked too hard to just go through the motions.
“You could see the disappointment it in their eyes after Wednesday night. These kids won’t be satisfied. We believe we belong and will leave everything on the field and that is all we can ask for as a coaching staff and hope it translates into a win.”
Fans traveling to Riverdale High School tonight are asked to wear royal blue in support of the Pioneers.