After losing an entire starting lineup, there was curiosity as to if the Warren County Middle School softball team could sustain its high level of play. The Lady Pioneers showed over the weekend they are still one of the top teams in the Midstate.
Warren County finished second in the Beech Bash tournament in Hendersonville, going 6-1 over the course of two days. The Lady Pioneers defeated Charlotte, West Wilson, Springfield, Southside, Cheatham County and Mt. Juliet before falling to Macon County 6-2 in the championship.
“I feel like the success was a combination of eighth-grade leadership and experience and the fire of some of the younger girls to show what they can bring to the team,” said coach Joe Damon. “Some of the younger girls really showed out. They’ve shown they can help the team as we move into the last half of the season and get ready for the tournament.”
Warren County (10-2) was hot from the start Saturday. The Lady Pioneers began with an 11-0 win over Springfield, with Bella Bain, Brooklyn Cope and Kora Forbes combining for a three-hit shutout.
In its first tournament action, the Lady Pioneers topped Southside 7-1. Warren County raced out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning, aided by an RBI triple from Alyssa Mosley and run-scoring double from Dallis Melton. Bain led the offense against Southside with a 3-for-3 performance, including RBI doubles in the second and fourth innings.
In the quarterfinals, Warren County was able to nip Cheatham County 5-4. The Lady Pioneers trailed 2-1 going into the bottom of the fourth, but Bain and Callie Roberts came through for the home squad.
Roberts ignited a two-out rally with a two-run double, bringing Forbes and Ky Damon in to put Warren County ahead 3-2.
Back-to-back walks brought Bain to the plate with the bases loaded. The eighth-grade slugger wasn’t interested in a free pass.
Bain blasted a 0-1 pitch into left field, scoring Roberts and Cadi Todd to give her team a 5-2 cushion going into the fifth inning.
Three errors nearly let Cheatham County back into the game though. In the top of the fifth, the visitors plated two runs and had the tying run on third base, but Mosley finished the game by scooping up a shot to shortstop and tossing to first for the final out.
The victory set up a matchup with Mt. Juliet, a group Damon knew would test his team.
“Mt. Juliet has been a very strong program for several years. We knew we had to play our best ball to compete,” said Damon.
He got his team’s best effort.
Forbes shrugged off allowing a solo home run in the first inning to dominate Mt. Juliet from the circle. The hurler allowed just five hits over five innings to earn a pivotal victory for the Lady Pioneers.
Mosley backed up the effort with a 3-for-3 night at the dish, while Melton broke open the game in the fourth with a two-run, inside-the-park home run.
“Our girls took a one-pitch-at-a-time mentality and fought for five innings,” said Damon. “They had put up huge numbers offensively all tournament. They had more eighth-graders than we had total players.
“Our girls never got rattled. They continued to make plays defensively and Kora kept their offense off balance.”
Errors proved to be the difference in the championship game. Warren County committed five errors against Macon County, including two in the fourth inning when the eventual champs scored five runs to put the game away.
While falling short in the championship stung, Damon believes the experience his young team gained will be vital as it chases back-to-back Central Tennessee Conference championships.
“Overall, it was a very good weekend. All our girls got a lot of field time and at-bats which will help tremendously as the season goes along,” said Damon.
The Lady Pioneers are set to return to action Monday, April 1 against Tullahoma at home. The game, which will be played at the WCHS softball field, will begin at 5 p.m.