CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Up against the ringing cowbells at Walker Valley High School, Warren County freshman Madison Hollis answered the bell in a 4-0 shutout of last year's Class AAA state runner-up.
Hollis tossed a three-hit shutout Monday and was backed by three extra-base hits and a trio of insurance runs late.
The Lady Pioneers brought plenty of noise as they exacted revenge in a rematch of last year's Region 3-AAA semifinal, which they lost at home by seven last season to a budding Cinderella.
"We knew to win this game we needed a near perfect game," Warren County coach Jerry Martin said. "Madison's composure was great, and she had a fresh arm after not pitching in the district championship against Cookeville. This was a tough environment to play in, but our girls handled it well."
Ooltewah beat Cookeville 5-3 on the road Monday and will travel to Warren County for the region final Wednesday. Both have locked a spot in Friday's sectional round.
After leadoff batter Carissa Frost lined an opposite-field single to left in the home half of the first, Walker Valley could muster only a pair of infield singles the rest of the way.
While the Lady Mustangs hoped to make another storybook run to the the Starplex softball complex in Murfreesboro, their season still was signficant. Walker Valley's senior class of six finished with 99 career wins and helped secure the program's first district championship in over a decade.
"I am so proud to be their coach," Lauren Limburg said. "These girls really are a family. They love and support each other. Our leadership was so strong. It came from the seniors, and the rest of the team bought in. The memories and time we have shared is something they will remember forever."
Warren County leadoff hitter Hailey Wood drove in the first run Monday with a double to the left-center warning track in the third inning.
Walker Valley (28-10) left seven runners on base and could not take advantage of fielding miscues in being shut out for the second time this season.
The Lady Pioneers (19-10-1) went up 2-0 in the sixth on Rhealee Johnson's line-drive RBI single. Warren County added two runs in the seventh to give Hollis plenty of breathing room.
"Playing in front of a crowd and team as loud as Walker Valley was hard," Hollis said. "But we treated it like business and just did our thing. Our girls showed up and showed out tonight."
The Lady Mustangs will lose pop at the plate with the graduations of Riley Suits, Kaylee Hughes and Hannah Kate Singleton but will return their top three batters along with left-handed ace Natalie Pruitt. Pruitt retired eight and seven straight in the loss.
"I am excited for next year and the girls we do have coming back," Limburg said. "But it hurts right now. I know our seniors will go on and be successful in whatever they do. They will always be Lady Mustangs."
Contact Patrick MacCoon at firstname.lastname@example.org.