WHITWELL, Tenn. - As if Marion County's three-year dominance over District 6-A softball competition wasn't enough of an obstacle for the rest of the league, the Lady Warriors rolled to the tournament title Wednesday evening led by a pair of freshmen.
Apparently, there's no end in sight after Marion's convincing 10-2 victory over host Whitwell for its third straight 6-A crown.
"When you're getting pinch-hit home runs from freshmen, you know you're loaded," said Whitwell coach Grace Pickett, whose team advanced to the title game earlier Wednesday with a 12-2 win over South Pittsburg. "One-through-nine, their lineup is about as tough as there is. There's no drop off and really not much you can pitch around."
Marion County will host the loser of the 5-A tournament between Silverdale Baptist and Grace Academy, while Whitwell will travel to the 5-A champion in the Region 3 tournament semifinals Monday.
Freshman pitcher Erica O'Kane scattered six hits and was in complete control to earn the win. Although she struck out just one, the Lady Warriors made no errors behind her and had seven runs before the Lady Tigers managed to score their first. O'Kane also got the offensive fireworks started for Marion with a three-run home run in the second. Freshman teammate Taylor Kennedy came in as a pinch hitter and clobbered a two-run homer later as Marion collected 12 total hits, including doubles by Brooke Baxter, Kelly Bruning, Hannah Morrison and Kelsey Thomas. All but Baxter also had RBIs.
It was the fourth win over Whitwell for the Lady Warriors this season and they haven't lost to a district opponent dating back to early last season.
"Erica has been doing a really good job for us all year," Marion coach Chris Thomas said. "She's not a typical freshman pitching or at the plate. The good thing about this bunch is we have solid hitters up and down the lineup, so when we get the pitching and solid defense like we did tonight we're pretty tough."
Third-seeded Silverdale Baptist on Wednesday defeated second-seeded Arts & Sciences at Warner Park for the second time this week, this time 4-0, and has earned a spot in today's District 5-A final at Grace Academy at 4:30 p.m.
If necessary, a second championship game would be played Friday at Grace. The district champion will host Whitwell in one of Monday's Region 3 seminfinals. The runner-up will play at Marion County.
Much like the earlier 3-1 victory over CSAS, the Lady Seahawks never scored more than one run in any inning.
"It wasn't all hunting and pecking," Silverdale coach Tim Couch said. "We hit a few balls hard."
Couch noted Bri Leffew's RBI triple in the first inning and Katie Henderson's RBI double in the third. Loren Hilton had a run-scoring single in the fifth and Allison Meadows picked up an RBI in the sixth when she beat the throw to first for an infield hit.
Winning pitcher Henderson, who struck out 11, allowed four singles and she hit one batter, but rose to the occasion after all of them ended up in scoring position. Couch said that was no surprise.
"I think the team has kind of rallied more around Katie," the coach said of the Lady Seahawks' late-season improvement. "Katie has probably been our most consistent all year."