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Lady Pioneers shut out in tourney

Rhealee Johnson had one of just four hits for Warren County in Wednesday’s 1-0 loss.

There is always a gut-check moment for teams in the postseason, but the Lady Pioneers weren’t expecting it to come so soon.

Warren County was pushed to the brink of elimination Wednesday night, falling to Rhea County 1-0 in the District 6AAA tournament. The Lady Pioneers now will face a must-win game against White County, the team that was co-champs with Warren County in the regular season, Thursday at 4 p.m. (Central)

“It’s win or go home,” said coach Gooby Martin. “White county will be ready - they’re a good team. I think we’re a good team. One of us has to go home.

“I think our girls will be ready. They know what is at stake.”

Warren County had won seven straight games going into Wednesday’s matchup, including starting the tourney Tuesday with a thrilling 8-7 victory over Cookeville.

It was a big shock to see the Lady Pioneer offense go silent. Warren County scored 78 runs in eight regular season district games, including 21 in two matchups against Rhea County.

Michaela Taylor was up to the task though, allowing just four hits while completing the shutout. Madison Hollis was just as good for the Lady Pioneers, giving up only three hits while striking out eight.

“Madison pitched great. She had good movement and command,” said Martin about his splendid junior hurler. “It’s how you get the hits. They got a double, then a double down the line to score the one run. They only had three hits, but if you combine back-to-back doubles, it’ll get you a run.”

The game of inches moniker proved apt in the pitcher’s duel. Rhea County took the lead in the fifth when Peyton Douglas was able to thread a shot down the third-base line. The umpire ruled Douglas’ double stayed fair, allowing Emma Gentry to score.

Gentry finished with two of her team’s three hits, including a double to the right-field gap after Hollis had retired 13 straight to start the game.

Both pitchers were perfect through three innings. Warren County finally broke the ice in the fourth, with Rhealee Johnson and Hollis each getting two-out singles. The Lady Pioneers couldn’t capitalize though, which was the story of the game.

“They made some plays defensively, some diving plays. We hit the ball hard, but sometimes the ball doesn’t fall for you and it didn’t today,” said Martin.

Warren County had runners on second and third with two outs in the fifth, but a bang-bang play allowed Rhea County to escape the threat. Shelby Roberts hit a hot shot up the middle, one that may have trickled through to tie the game.

Nobody was going to find out - Alyssa Mosley collided with the Rhea County SS as she went for the ball and the umpires quickly ruled the defensive interference. It ended the threat, the last time the Lady Pioneers had a potential rally.

Elia Atterson had a huge defensive play in the seventh to keep the Lady Pioneers close. The team’s senior centerfielder hosed a runner trying to advance to third after a ball ricocheted off Hollis’ leg and into short centerfield. The pinpoint throw allowed Warren County to keep the game at 1-0, but the Lady Pioneers went down in order in the seventh.

If Warren County beats White County tomorrow, the group would have to play a doubleheader. Rhea County awaits the winner of the Lady Pioneer - Warriorette matchup at 6 p.m. (Central) in the district finals.

Rhea County has the upper hand after Wednesday’s huge victory. The advancing team from tomorrow’s first game would have to beat the Lady Eagles twice to win the district title.

The if-necessary game is scheduled for Friday at 5 p.m. (Central)

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