With two teams, three fields and a wealth of tradition at its disposal, the Lady Panthers softball program is hosting a series of summer scrimmages that began Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. with Centralia 1 playing Harrisburg, Blair Oaks facing Macon and Mexico taking on Odessa.
"This is a team camp. Every squad plays four games. Each game is a one-hour drop-dead scrimmage," said Centralia coach Jill Angell. "At one hour they're done regardless of who's batting or who's ahead. Scores don't matter, but we do have special situations, such as, to start the second inning the last out starts at first base. In the third inning the last out starts at second and in the fourth the final out begins on third. We just want teams to be able to see some situations that they may not end up in."
Because of this format, games start every 75 minutes with the last three beginning at 6:45 p.m. That means sometimes squads have gaps between games. This includes Macon, which took the field at 10:00 a.m., 1:45 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Centralia 1 also was in action at those exact same times while Blair Oaks, North Callaway and Monett began at 11:15 a.m. and concluded at 6:45 p.m.
"We see lots of teams from all over the state. This year we've got 35 teams coming to this event. That's kind of exciting," Angell said. "Most years we do eight total days like (Tuesday). This year we're only doing six."
These camps take place at Bicentennial Park in Centralia on Tuesday's and Wednesday's and will feature slight daily variations. For example, on June 14 that meant the action commenced at 8:30 a.m. with Bowling Green, Hannibal, Van-Far, Battle, Webster Groves and St. Clair adding themselves to this mix. On June 20th the field was just as blended with Herculaneum, Trenton, Platte Valley, Salisbury, East Buchanan, Cameron, Richmond and Dekalb making their debut's at this event.
"It's very early in the summer, but we played last week at Hannibal. It was a bit of an initiation or trial by fire because we've got a lot of new kids," said Angell. "We lost five starters from 2016. This difference between this team and last year is that now we have a lot more slap-hitters. We're quick. We're progressing nicely. After our fist game I was very happy. It helps me in the summer to see where we are and this summer we'll play 24 different teams on our field."
As for whether or not this organized competition is a good idea, last year in the Class 2 postseason the Lady Panthers were literally unstoppable on their way to claiming yet another state title. That journey wasn't without it's share of drama, though, as Centralia needed an extra inning to beat Blair Oaks for the championship 3-1 on Oct. 22.
"As for how we compare against everybody else, Centralia 1 is progressing nicely," Angell said. "Centralia 2 is mostly younger players, so they're still learning."
For Mexico, the first day of this camp featured some long, powerful at-bats, two of which were homeruns. That led to the Lady Bulldogs winning 7-5 over Centralia 2 in their 12:30 p.m. contest prior to taking on Hallsville later that afternoon.
"We hit a two-run homerun in the last three minutes of the game to beat Odessa (Tuesday) morning, but we swung the bat well in both games," said assistant varsity softball coach Danielle Ingrum because head coach Keith Louder was teaching summer school. "The heat is just part of the game. I don't think I've seen anybody effected by it yet. I think we're going to have another good season this year. I'm really excited to get started this fall."