The Warren County Middle School softball team may have entered the Central Tennessee Conference tournament as the No. 3 seed, but Lady Pioneer coach Gooby Martin knew his group was better than their seed suggested. Turns out the Lady Pioneers were the best.
The Lady Pioneers strung together four wins last week, including beating Coffee County in the championship game 6-3, to claim the CTC tournament title.
Warren County was solid in the regular season, finishing 16-4 overall. However, three of those losses were in CTC play which dropped the team to the No. 3 seed when tournament play began last Monday. The Lady Pioneers didn’t take long establishing themselves as the team to beat though.
In their opening-round matchup, the Lady Pioneers beat White County 3-0 as Erin Hollis threw a no-hitter. It was a hot start for the Lady Pioneer pitcher, who would go on to earn each of the team’s four wins in the tournament.
While Hollis kept White County in check, Neva Tackett and Madison Mason supplied the offense. Tackett and Mason each had RBI hits in the third inning as Warren County scored all its runs to win with ease and advance to play Tullahoma.
Tullahoma beat the Lady Pioneers twice in the final week of the regular season and Warren County took out all its frustration in the tournament. The Lady Pioneers blasted Tullahoma 13-3, moving into the winner’s bracket final in the process.
Skyler Youngblood pushed the Lady Pioneers ahead for good in the third inning with a two-run single, but it was just the start of a big scoring night for Warren County Tuesday. Mason and Emily Mikkola each had two-run hits in the fourth inning as the Lady Pioneers scored six runs in the frame. Errors and walks added four runs in the fifth as Warren County went on to win by 10.
In the winner’s bracket finals Wednesday, the Lady Pioneers faced Coffee County and moved one win away from the title with a 3-2 victory in extra innings.
Hollis provided the heroics as she got the game-winning hit in the bottom of the sixth inning, along with earning the victory in the circle. Hollis hit a bases-loaded, two-out single to right field to score Tackett and start a celebration.
Warren County returned to Coffee County, where the entire tournament was played, on Thursday night to await its opponent in the finals. Coffee County was the team to battle out of the loser’s bracket to face the Lady Pioneers.
Warren County knew it had two chances to claim the title, but coach Martin didn’t want the tournament to come down to an “if necessary” game. Despite coach Martin’s urging and a two-hit game from Youngblood, Warren County was shut out 1-0 to force a final game.
Instead of continuing their struggles against Coffee County pitching, the Lady Pioneers jumped on their opponents early in the final game. Warren County scored four runs in the first inning, then held on to win 6-3.
After Coffee County went ahead 1-0 in the top of the first, Emily Webb started the bottom of the first with an infield single. Youngblood put runners on the corners with another hit, followed by Mason knotting the game at 1-1 with a single.
Tackett put the Lady Pioneers on top with an RBI single of her own, but the team wasn’t satisfied with a one-run lead. Bethany Porter loaded the bases with a single, then Kyra Hillis hit a sacrifice fly to bring Mason in to score. Hollis ended the rally with an RBI single, helping her cause in the process.
Coffee County briefly narrowed the gap in the third inning with a run, but the Lady Pioneers came back with two runs in the fourth inning to clinch the game. Webb and Mason each singled and scored as Warren County took a commanding 6-2 lead into the final frame.
Coffee County plated one run in the fifth, but it would be the final score of the game as Hollis got the last out on a fly ball to Porter at first base.
Coach Martin was incredibly pleased with the play of the Lady Pioneers, who will be able to call themselves CTC champions all summer.
“The girls played as a team all year and it was great to see them grow throughout the season,” said Martin. “I am proud of the girls for their hard work, dedication and believing in Nick Cantrell and myself as coaches. They’ve earned the championship and they all deserve it.”