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WCMS softball one win from state

Maggy Whiles didn’t think she was going to get there. The star Lady Pioneer shortstop was in a full sprint, but she still had to dive and just hope she would a miraculous catch. When she checked her glove, she knew she had did it – and it helped Warren County Middle School continue its season.

Whiles’ amazing play in the seventh helped the WCMS Lady Pioneers survive a late rally and down Stewarts Creek 6-5 in the TMSAA sectionals. The Lady Pioneers will now travel to Mt. Juliet Thursday to battle for a state berth.

“You can put it into words. She took the game from them,” said coach Joe Damon on Whiles’ catch, which turned into a game-swinging double play.

Warren County (15-6) led 6-3 going into the final inning, but Stewarts Creek came alive with its back against the wall. A lead-off double was followed by three straight singles, the last two scoring runs to cut into the Lady Pioneer advantage.

After four straight hits, Warren County was clinging to a 6-5 lead with runners on the corners and no outs. Stewarts Creek didn’t hesitate to take second, knowing the Lady Pioneers couldn’t try to throw down and risk the tying run sprinting home.

Now with the tying and leading runs in scoring position, the Lady Pioneers needed something amazing to keep the lead. Whiles provided it.

She went charging into short left field the moment she saw a flare floated over third base. Whiles said after the game she didn’t think she could catch it, but she was able to make a backhanded grab as he went to the ground. Always alert, she quickly popped up and fired to third, where the runner was called out for not tagging up.

A short protest was filed by the Stewarts Creek coach after the field umpire called the girl out for leaving early, but after talks with both umps, the call stood.

There was still some sweating when a wild pitch moved the remaining runner on base to third, but Ceilee Gudat forced the final batter to ground out, fittingly on a shot to Whiles.

Gudat went the distance for the win, pitching all seven innings and allowed five runs (just two earned) on seven hits while striking out two and walking five. It was the first time all season the Lady Pioneers had to play seven innings – Warren County usually plays just five games, but TMSAA rules extended the game.

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Warren County led from the first frame on, powered by a four-run first, but there was definitely some nervousness in the seventh as Stewarts Creek seized some momentum – “we knew they could hit. We saw it for six innings,” said Damon.

As for the rule change in the postseason, Damon didn’t have an issue with it. In fact, he’s already calling for the Central Tennessee Conference to adopt the same policy next season.

“I’m already lobbying for our conference to go seven if that’s what we’re going to do in the postseason. We need that through the year, but I thought the girls handle it well,” said Damon.

The Lady Pioneers were ready early. Even after an error allowed Stewarts Creek to take a 1-0 lead right of the bat, Warren County answered right back.

Ky Damon led off the bottom of the first with a double, getting the Lady Pioneers rolling. Callie Roberts, who finished with a team-high two hits, brought Damon around with a double of her own, then scored on Lily Rains’ two-out single.

Gudat helped her own cause with a two-out double of her own, then scored on a line drive shot up the middle by Kyaira Sharpe.

Stewarts Creek was able to chip away with two runs in the third, but the Lady Pioneers extended their lead with Alexia Ross’ perfect squeeze bunt in the fourth and Maddox Adams ripping a double to the left-field fence in the fifth.

Warren County finished the game with nine hits, including McKenzie Hullett’s bunt single in the sixth. It was a solid outing considering the team hadn’t played since April 25. Damon tried to get his team ready over the last two weeks by putting them in game situations every day in practice.

“We went live a lot at practice. We had a lot of live at-bats. That had to contribute some to coming out and jumping on them early,” said Damon.

He won’t have to worry too much about rust setting in for their next game, although the Lady Pioneers will likely be working Wednesday on correcting their five errors from Tuesday. Damon doesn’t plan of changing much in pursuit of a state bid – he knows his team has been preparing for this moment ever since the team was picked last summer.

“It has to be business as usual,” said Damon. “We have to continue to work like we have for the last year and be ready for Thursday.”

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