After three-peating as 9th District and 3rd Region Champions, the Lady Panthers are hoping to find themselves improving daily in order to make another long postseason run in 2023.
Daviess County finished last season with a 31-6 overall record, with a 1-0 loss to Apollo being the only defeat by a 9th District or 3rd Region opponent. The Lady Panthers lost nine seniors from last year’s roster—six of which were starters, including Kinsey Vergason, Sophie Simone, Seanna Leibfried, Katie Mewes, Hattie Newman and now Auburn Tiger Millie Roberts.
And while Daviess County has plenty of shoes to fill, they also return a number of key players as well. Senior Raylee Roby will be the key leader in the circle, as the future Murray State Racer is coming off a monster junior season in which she owned a 21-5 record while toting a 1.58 ERA and a whopping 245 strikeouts across 163.2 innings in 26 games pitched.
Roby will have a little more help this year though, as Head Coach John Biggs has a few more arms in the Lady Panthers arsenal.
“We will have four pitchers see varsity action this year,” Biggs said. “Freshmen Sophia Cain, Storey Hume, and eighth grader Kamryn Timmons have looked really good in the preseason. This will allow us to have ‘fresh arms’ at the end of the season.”
Daviess County will also have another senior leader in Jessie Daniels back at first base, having proved that she’s one of the best power hitters in the state last year with 15 home runs, 39 RBIs and a .467 batting average. They’ll also have freshman Annie Newman back at shortstop, having hit a pair of home runs, tallied 23 RBIs and had a .324 batting average as an eighth grader.
The Lady Panthers will have a new leader in center field as well, as Biggs expects senior Kayley Payne (.311 batting average) to utilize her range and speed more this season. Senior Kaitlyn Hill is also expected to get some opportunities in the outfield to provide a consistent bat in the lineup, while sophomore Daniell Beckiwth and junior Makayla Rowan are expected to be in the mix at second base and in the outfield.
Biggs went on to say that sophomore Sadie Morris also has the inside track at third base with her excellent defense in the field as well as power and speed at the plate, while senior Kaydence Hamilton and freshman Callie Smith will share duties behind the plate. With a number of shifting parts in the lineup and in the field, Biggs is hoping to utilize their depth and establish player roles as the year progresses.
“With so many new faces in the lineup, it’s going to take some time to become comfortable with each other,” Biggs said. “We have so much depth & options with this group and will try different combinations throughout the year. The biggest key for our success is establishing the roles on the team and players embracing those roles.”
Shoring up their plate approach and trying to grab extra bases is also a big focus on the offensive side of things, as Biggs said that will be crucial to help Daviess County grab some wins.
“The one area we really need to improve on is reducing the number of strikeouts or empty at bats,” Biggs said. “We need to make other teams make as many plays as possible. With the speed we have, I would also like to increase the number of stolen bases.”
And while there will be a lot of change within Lady Panthers softball, the expectations are just as high as years past.
“Same as every year, continue to get better with opportunity,” Biggs said. “We always play a very competitive schedule, but this year’s is the most competitive we’ve ever had. There aren’t any nights off and especially with a big target on your back. But, our players understand that, and welcome the challenges.”