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WCHS prepares for softball season
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If you hear Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger,” there’s a good chance a Lady Pioneer is busy swinging a bat, throwing a softball or fielding groundballs.
The Warren County High School softball team has used the song as an inspiration this offseason, hoping “what doesn’t kill them makes them stronger.”
The Lady Pioneers set a school record last season with 19 wins, but the team fell one game short of a second straight trip to the regionals with a loss to Cookeville in the District 6-AAA tournament.
The bitter end to last season has led the Lady Pioneers to focus on making sure this season is special for seven returning senior starters.
With nearly every starter returning from last year’s team, coach David Upton and the Lady Pioneers hope to eclipse last season’s win total and make a triumphant return to regionals.
Bolstering the team’s chances is a pitching staff led by senior Gabi Keith. As a junior, Keith won 10 games in the circle and struck out over 100 batters. Keith threw a no-hitter against Cumberland County in District 6-AAA play as well. Keith was named to the all-district team following last season and has already signed a letter of intent to continue her career at Motlow next year.
Keith will be the Lady Pioneers opening-day starter, but junior Monica Lane and sophomore K.B. Cantrell should serve as starters this season too.
Lane went 5-1 as a starter last year while Cantrell pitched on the junior varsity team early in her freshman year before an injury shut her down for the season.
Keith, Lane and Cantrell will be throwing to a returning senior who has started for four years and earned all-district honors last season.
Morgan Frye is the team’s defensive anchor and is a steady contributor with the bat as well. Frye hit over .300 last season and was a team leader in RBIs.
Lane will pull double duty as an infielder as she is one of three Lady Pioneer infielders who were named to the All-District 6-AAA team last year.
Lane will fill her usual role at second base, where she teams up with senior Lauren Wilkinson to form one of the most potent middle infields in District 6-AAA.
Lane and Wilkinson are just as good at the plate as they are on the field. Last season, Lane finished with an average over .300 and was among the team leaders in RBIs.
Wilkinson set a school record with 12 home runs and led the team in runs scored and stolen bases.
The corners of the infield are held down by seniors Taylor Grissom and Sarah Jacobs, both starters since their freshman seasons.
Grissom plays first base and is one of the team’s best fielders. Grissom led the team with an average above .400 last season and was the team leader in RBIs. Grissom was an all-district performer last season and will join Keith at Motlow following her senior year.
Jacobs earned all-district recognition after her sophomore season, but had an up-and-down junior year. Jacobs comes into her senior year hoping to bounce back with a stellar senior campaign at third base.
In the outfield, Warren County returns senior starters Chelsea Cope and Peytan Hall. Cope has started in left field the last two years, while Hall has been a mainstay in right field.
Cope’s responsibilities could change this season though. Cope has spent time in center field during practice, leaving left field open to competition.
Sophomore Chesley Chandler started two games last season in LF and could get the nod on opening day. Junior Mahaley Keele, who last played varsity softball at Boyd two years ago, is a factor in the competition for the starting job as well.
Keele could also get the call as the team’s designated hitter. Keele and freshman Liza Harvey are both left-handed batters with solid power and speed.
The Lady Pioneers will see this weekend if the team is ready for the start of the regular season in March.
Warren County will travel to Mt. Juliet tomorrow for three scrimmages in the playday. The Lady Pioneers will also participate in a playday at Shelbyville March 10 before the start of the season Monday, March 12 at Oakland High School.