The Palmyra softball team enters the 2018 season with a chip on its shoulder and on a mission to take care of some unfinished business.
The Palmyra softball team felt a painful sting from falling one win short of the Final Four in Class 2 last season.
Palmyra won the district championship and defeated North Callaway in the sectional round before a 5-1 loss to Bowling Green shattered the Lady Panthers' hopes.
“Ending like that, it was awful,” said rising senior Lauren Van Tress. “It was awesome we made it that far because Palmyra softball hadn't done that in a while, but to fall short was heart-breaking.
“We were so close.”
Palmyra enters the 2018 season with a chip on its shoulder and on a mission to take care of some unfinished business.
“This team is not intimated,” said coach Jill Arch. “With the experience last year, lot of our girls realize we are right there with the best teams. That's the mindset.”
Van Tress and fellow seniors Lexi Arch and Morgan Ingram look to set the tone on a team that returns a clear-cut ace, strong infield and deep batting order.
The Lady Panthers believe they learned lessons the hard way last year.
“Last season we were just thinking state, state, state,” Lexi Arch said. “Instead we need to think one game at a time, one play at a time, one base at a time. We need to keep doing what we expect out of ourselves and pushing each other.”
The disappointment of how last season ended has only motivated the Lady Panthers to sharpen their game — both physically and mentally.
Ingram mentioned the team will take nothing for granted this season.
“Last year we came close, but we ended up just a little short,” Ingram said. “It left a sour taste in our mouths. And now we're coming back with a vengeance.”
Bailey Lovelace (second base), Megan Stone (shortstop) and Lexi Arch (third base) all return to form a formidable infield with new starter Cameron O'Brien taking the reins at first base.
O'Brien previously served as a utility player for Palmyra.
“Cameron has played a little bit of everywhere, and over the summer she really grew into a great softball player,” coach Arch said. “I think we'll see good things over there.”
Lexi Arch led all returning Lady Panthers with a .374 batting average a year ago to go along with 21 runs and 19 RBIs, while Stone batted .348 and Lovelace .348 all while playing regular roles.
They will play directly behind Van Tress, the team's No. 1 pitcher who maintained a 2.20 ERA and tossed 81 strikeouts in 79 1/3 innings last year.
Ingram is the projected starter behind the plate.
“Lauren has picked up a lot of speed and movement on her ball,” Ingram said of the starting pitcher. “My favorite pitch to call is her rise ball because it's just perfect.”
Van Tress lauded the defense that will be her safety net.
“Our defense is so strong right now,” she said. “Our infield is basically the same as last year, and our outfield has been getting so much better.”
Emma Wittler is expected to play center field, with Sophie Hoerr in right. The everyday left fielder remains a question mark.
The Lady Panthers are scheduled to open the season at the Troy Tournament this weekend.
They are focused on the daily process to achieve their ultimate goal.
“We've gotten closer and closer to state each year from my freshman year to now,” Lexi Arch said. “Hopefully this year we will finally get there.”