The Lady Panthers wrapped up their season early in the post season with a 10-0 loss to the eventual District 13 champions, Franklin-Simpson Lady ‘Cats, in the first round of districts. It was an end to a win less season where a few games that were winnable just got away from them. They had the Lady Dragons on the ropes, they had Todd County scrambling for answers, and they took the best from a lot of top teams and kept right on ticking. There were flashes of brilliance, just not enough of those flashes and not at the most opportune times. The coaching staff did see progress in their young squad.
“As I said at the beginning of the year, the main thing I wanted to teach the girls was how to compete,” RHS head coach Greg Meacham said. “I went back and looked back at a lot of stats, the last three games we played went seven innings, altogether we had five or seven games that went seven innings. Last year, they might have played two that went to seven innings.”
The Lady Panthers were led by three seniors in an otherwise incredibly young team. Imani Hampton provided the pop in the middle of the line up and handled the hot corner as well as anyone in the region. Amber Rosser was the speed that teams demanded from a top of the line up and was athletic enough to help Russellville all over the field on defense. Megan Woodson provided clutch hit after clutch hit to keep the season chugging right along, and was the perfect compliment at second base to Rosser’s short stop at the end of the year to provide a stellar middle infield.
After those three the Lady Panthers fielded a lot of young and unproven, before this year, talent.
“We had some highlights, but I threw two seventh graders the majority of the year and a sophomore and they did a great job,” coach Meacham said.
Those two seventh graders were south paw Tara Gilbert and Maci Meacham while the staff was led by sophomore Laura Grace Marksberry. The arms had their share of growing pains but, they just like the team, showed flashes of potential as they went up against varsity bats and blew past them at times. Just the consistence needs to be worked on and those three will provide the building blocks that the Lady Panthers will build upon next year.
But all season long the defense faltered behind their pitching.
“If you go back and look at the way we played it was our defense that really hurt us,” coach Meacham said. “We just couldn’t catch the ball.”
Their defense and offense all compounded to hurt the Lady Panthers as they went through the season. They had a season high output against the Lady Dragons of 11 runs, but overall their season average per game was a touch over one run a game. They would be shut out 16 of the 32 games.
But at the end of the season it was apparent that the improvement was starting to show. In the last five games of the season they had pushed across more than two runs a game.
“At the end of the year, when they finally learned and watched some college games of what we were trying to teach them on how to hit the ball they finally bought in,” coach Meacham said. “As the year went on, we started hitting the ball pretty well.”
They will look to take that improved hitting into the off season as they continue to work. They are already as a team playing in summer leagues, travel leagues, and playing as a high school team against neighboring county teams to improve and catch some teams next season by surprise.
“It’s like any other sport, it’s like basketball, you don’t get better during the season, but you get better over the summer where you learn to play the game,” coach Meacham said. “They got to buy in to what we’re trying to teach them.”
The Lady Panthers have a lot of work ahead of them to reach the level of Allen County-Scottsville’s and the Greenwood’s in this region.
But the future is incredibly bright for them. They have young talent that got their first taste of varsity action this year and are gearing up for next season already. They have bought into the system the coaching staff is preaching and are already chomping at the bit for spring to get here. With three arms ready to show their improvement, a defense that constantly improving, and an offense that was clicking at the end of the year will be rearing to go next season. They played hard last season yet the coaching staff is expecting an even more scrappy and tough team next season.
“I think we’ll play harder than I think we did this year, we just got to get them to buy in to a system,” coach Meacham said.
The athletes seemed to have bought into the system, now they are just waiting to show the community the positive results.