Lenoir City High School head softball coach Mike Zeller was hoping for a better start to the season, but he is not giving up on the young, talented roster.
The Lady Panthers (3-8, 1-5 District 4-3A) picked up the first district win of the season March 29 in an impressive 18-1 victory over the West High School Lady Rebels but fell 13-0 the following day to Heritage High School.
“I like their spirit and they’re fun to be around,” Zeller said. “They work hard but just like we’ve been talking about, it’s a lack of experience. Some are just out of positions and have never played the positions that we have them at. It’s going to take time.”
Lenoir City looked to bounce back Thursday at home against an athletic Bearden High School squad but fell 19-10 in a loss riddled with errors.
“Errors was the name of the game tonight, and it all just comes down to experience,” Zeller said. “We have a lot of girls out there that don’t have a lot of experience and we’ve got them in different positions and doing things they’re not used to, so I think it’s just going to take time. That was the biggest thing was not knowing what to do with the ball and throwing the ball around. It’s just things we need to work on and get better.”
The Lady Panthers tied the game at 3-3 in the first inning and rallied to score six additional runs in the third to jump out to a 9-5 lead behind the hot bats of seniors Maddie Haskins and Addison Stooksbury.
However, Bearden responded in the next inning with five runs due to a series of fielding errors by the Lady Panthers.
“I feel like we had a lot of errors out there,” Haskins said. “Most of their runs came on errors because we kept throwing it around the field a lot. We’ve just got to keep doing it and keep doing it until we get it right.”
The Lady Panthers have shown flashes on offense and defense throughout the first 11 games but consistency is an ongoing issue.
Eight players recorded at least one hit and an RBI against Bearden in 34 total appearances at the plate.
“The offense was great and we out-hit them, and that was obvious,” Zeller said. “We produced some runs and had some people doing some really good things all throughout the lineup. Addison pitched a great game, but we’ve got to have better gloves behind her.”
A major positive was getting Stooksbury back after missing the last two weeks due to an injury. She pitched all seven innings, recording nine strikeouts and 94 total strikes in 158 pitches.
Stooksbury also did well at the plate with three hits, two RBIs and two runs.
“She’s always been a great hitter and she’s a rock for us,” Zeller said. “Pitching-wise, she’s done very good this year. We’ve just got to get more help behind her. She didn’t pitch the last several games because she had an injury, so she couldn’t pitch then. This is actually her first night back actually in about two weeks, and so she looked really good tonight. Again, we’ve just got to do a better job.”
Although a slow start has plagued the Lady Panthers, the players are remaining upbeat and battling through attrition issues with only 10 players on the roster.
“We all have great attitudes and are working together as one,” Haskins said. “I just wish we would cut down on the errors and play more clean, but we’re getting a lot better. We have players that have never played before and between February and now, they have gotten so much better.”
The Lady Panthers competed against the District 4-3A powerhouse Farragut High School Lady Admirals on Tuesday after News-Herald presstime.
Lenoir City’s next game will be 5:45 p.m. Thursday at Hardin Valley Academy, followed by an anticipated rivalry matchup at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Loudon High School.
“This week’s obviously going to be huge because we’ve got four games, so it’s going to be tough,” Zeller said. “We’ll see what we can do because our numbers are down and we’ve only got 10 players, so we’ll see if they can fight through it.”