Softball season has arrived and the 23 members of the Centralia Lady Panthers High School Softball Team are ready to play.
Head Coach Liz Bostick said fans should plan to see some exciting softball this season and Centralia’s Bicentennial Park West Field, as well as various fields around the state.
This season the team is built around five returning varsity starters, so visiting teams beware.
Returning for the Lady Panthers are: Ella Holiman, Carter Hawkins, Kayln Finlay, Kylei Walters and Abbie Ross.
Bostick said one word describes what fans will see on the diamond this season. “Scrappy, we’ve got both aspects of the game. Lots of the girls can hit the long ball, others who can slap and bunt and we’ve got plenty of base-stealing speed.”
As far as how they’ll use it, be prepared for traditional Lady Panther-style softball, strong fielding backing strong pitching, with a varied attack from the plate.
Regarding pitching, this season, fans will see four faces on the mound: Ella Holiman – senior, McKinzie Adkisson – sophomore, Meredith Wright – sophomore and Kaelyn Walters – freshman.
The pitchers will have a pair of catchers to choose from, Tarryn Vega – junior and Harper Sontheimer – sophomore.
Even a week before their first varsity contest, the William Chrisman Tournament, a Class 4 and 5 tournament being held in the Grain Valley area, Bostick is playing her cards close to her chest regarding some aspects of the Lady Panthers starting lineup.
“I am waiting and watching to see who demonstrates leadership and skill,” she said. “Like in the circle for pitchers, it is going take everybody contributing for the team to be successful this season.”
Asked about the Lady Panthers outfield, Bostick replied with two words: “super-fast.” The The Lady Panthers’ infield is going to work to be fundamentally sound, Bostick said, while demonstrating lots of hustle and heart while making plays behind their pitchers.
It is a trio in motion, she said. “They do a great job of tracking the hits and cover a lot of ground. The will take away a lot of balls that would have otherwise been base-hits.”
Other potential starters are Autumn Hawkins – outfield, Jozelynn Bostick – infield, and Abby Reed – first base.
To take the Clarence Cannon Conference championship this year, she said the ladies need to beat one team in particular, Palmyra.
“They will be pretty strong this season,” Bostick said. “They placed second in the state last season. Monroe City and Macon will also be tough.”
Bostick, a Lady Panthers assistant coach for nine years and four state championships under retired head coach Jill Angell, said there will be at least one non-COVID-19 related change to this season’s rules.
“They are now five classes in Missouri high school softball instead of four,” she said. “That will give a lot more teams a shot at post-season play. There will also be a point system to as part of the seeding for the post season brackets.”
As the season opener draws closer, Bostick reflected on the game and the team.
“Overall we’re a young team with lots of opportunity for the players to compete for positions. Softball is a game of failure, where every game you try and rise above the previous one, always learning and improving… Overall I want to build a culture of love of the game.”
The Lady Panthers Senior night is Monday, August 31 against Macon.