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Talented softball team has high hopes for upcoming season

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By Kristin Beck

2013 could be a “banner” year for the Lady Panthers softball team.

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The girls lost just one senior from last year’s squad that finished 17-17 and lost in the first round of the 31st Districts to Owen County.

The team is loaded with experienced talent, led by six juniors – Michaela Culver, Sarah Hawkins, Kelsey Ogden, Mackenzie Ogden, Kayla Williamston and Brittany Yocum – most of whom have played travel ball.

“This year, I feel like we can play with about anybody we play. We should be able to,” head coach Dennis Hawkins said. “I don’t want to jinx us before we start, but we have set our goals pretty high this year. We should be able to play small ball or long ball, either way we want to do it this year, and we probably have above average pitching, I feel like.”

Sarah Hawkins will be the primary pitcher, with Culver and Mackenzie Ogden also filling in.

The Lady Panthers will be anchored by their infielders – second baseman Williamson, shortstop Mackenzie Ogden and third baseman Kelsey Ogden – who excel with both their glove and their bat.

The team also returns their starting catcher, sophomore Mackenzi Hawkins, and two up-and-coming eighth graders, Jenah Roberts and Haley Dermon.

“It is going to be an exciting year,” Hawkins said. “It’s going to be fun, and these girls are stepping up and taking care of business pretty much. They’re not taking a whole lot of coaching, just somebody to keep them on the field and keep them organized and they’ve pretty well taken care of themselves. They’ve done it enough and know a lot about the game themselves, and they’ve had a lot of good coaching in their careers.”

Hawkins said he wants to improve on last year’s 17 wins. He said he wants his players to enter each game with a positive attitude and belief that they can win.

He has loaded this year’s schedule with teams who had winning records last season, such as Martha Layne Collins and the Oldham County schools, to challenge his team. The Lady Panthers also will compete in the Uncle Pete Noll tournament March 22-23 and the Oldham County Spring Break Classic, which will feature out of state teams.

The 31st District looks pretty balanced again this year, Hawkins said. “Henry, Owen and Gallatin are all going to be better than average. I think any of them could win it.” However, he did not want to count out his own team either, saying he felt like Carroll was up there with the rest of them.

“I don’t think anybody is going to dominate the district,” he said. “I think it’s going to be down to the last game.”

Hawkins’ goal is to “put some things up” on the banner in the high school gym, reserved for district, regional, state, All-A and conference titles.

Assistant coach Paul Ogden returns to assist Hawkins. Scott Schirmer, who has been with the program off and on for years, will also be an assistant coach.

Hawkins said he would like to thank all of the parents, as well as Principal Tom Stephens and Athletic Director Paul Stone for their support.