By KEITH SPARKS
The Lady Panther softball team got its first taste of adversity in quite some time last week during their playoff matchup with Waco Robinson, which they won two games to one.
In their first matchup on May 12, the Panthers won by a final score of 2-1 after eight innings of play. After scoring in the first inning, the Panthers were unable to find home plate again until the top of the eighth.
Sam Barnett led the way for the Panthers offensively with a home run and an RBI, while Joely Williamson and Carissa Garza each finished with a double and Kinsey Kuhlmann brought in an RBI.
Abby Covington and Amber Wiggins split time on the mound for the Panthers, each pitching four innings. Wiggins pitched the first four innings, giving up Waco Robinson’s lone run on a solo home run, followed by Covington, who took over the last four.
The second game of a back-to-back on Friday night resulted in the Lady Panthers’ first loss in months, as they fell by a final score of 2-1 after leaving 13 runners stranded on base during the 10-inning contest.
“They couldn’t believe it,” Hankins said of her team after their loss in game two. “I think they knew they had an opportunity to win it, and there was quite a bit of disappointment. They were just disappointed because they really wanted to take care of it in two, but I think it was a good lesson, just to show them that they’ve got to work and fight a little bit harder. Just because you want something doesn’t mean you’re going to get it.”
Kuhlmann finished the game with two singles, Barnett finished with a double and an RBI, Garza finished with a single and a run scored, and Kandyn Faurie and Covington each finished with a double.
Wiggins suffered her first loss of the season as a starting pitcher, giving up one run in four innings of work as she pitched the final four innings. Covington pitched the first six, giving up one run, as well.
The Panthers bounced back for game three on May 13, winning by a final score of 2-0 to take the series and advance behind a single and a double from Williamson, two singles and an RBI from Jessika Truax, and a single and an RBI from Faurie.
“I was really proud of them,” Hankins said. “We had our first loss in a really long time, but they got on the bus Saturday and were energetic and ready to take care of business.”
Although Hankins was proud of her team’s bounce-back effort in game three, she was disappointed in their inability to bring in runs and finish the series in two games on Friday.
“My message to them after we won game three was, ‘You had an opportunity to win it Friday night. Could you have given something more? I know you fought hard, but now you see how close it was,’” she said. “It could have gone either way, and if we would have gone home, I think that would have been a really disappointing game two, because when you leave 13 runners on, that’s crazy.”
Next, the Lady Panthers will face Little Cypress-Mauriceville (LCM) in the Regional Semi-Final Championship. LCM was the underdog against Huntington in the previous round, but were able to capitalize on Huntington’s lone pitcher that pitched all three games of the series, losing game one by a final score of 9-4 before winning the next two by scores of 7-0 and 5-0.
“I think it’ll be another good series,” Hankins said. “I think defensively and hitting-wise, it’s going to be tough. I don’t think that they have the pitching that Waco Robinson has, so I’m hoping that this pitcher is going to let our hitters do a little bit more talking.”
This Thursday, May 18, the Lady Panthers and LCM Bears will faceoff at Madisonville High School at 7 p.m. Game two will take place on Friday, May 19, at 5 p.m. at the same location. If necessary, game three will take place on Friday, May 19, as well, 30 minutes after the end of game two.