Last season the Lady Panthers varsity softball team soundly defeated Hallsville 10-0 and North Callaway 8-1 to claim the class 2, district 8, championship on the way to winning yet another state title.
This year Centralia is looking for more of the same, only this time the squad will have to do it without five athletes who were lost to graduation. This includes catcher Nicole Duncan, second baseman Shelby Salisbury, left fielder Shayla Ralphs and first basemen/pitchers Kali Hinds and Madison Preston.
"We will run the bases well. This is an extremely quick group of young ladies," said head coach Jill Angell. "It is really early to know where we need to improve. We are working on fielding the ball clean and base hits. I think we will put the ball in play and have more base hits than home runs this year as opposed to last."
At the heart of this effort in 2017 is a cast of returning talent that features short stop Jaymi Freeman and Katelyn Rakers, who played centerfield in 2016 but will probably man third base this year. Sadie Owens is also back and making the transition from right field to second base, Kellyn Vega will take the field at catcher after playing third base a season ago and designated player/first baseman Gwendolyn Bostick will move to the bullpen.
The other ingredients in this winning recipe are the players that are new to the varsity, but could get a chance to contribute, such as senior outfielder Mykaela Gallegos, junior outfielder Carter Simkins, senior utility player Emily Greene and senior outfielder/first baseman Courtney Luedloff.
"We are young as far as kids that have played varsity, so we will need to work on composure in pressure situations," Angell said. "Palmyra, Highland, Monroe City (are the teams to beat in the Clarence Cannon Conference this year) They all have good pitchers that we may have trouble hitting."
Last season the Lady Panthers went 29-1 overall, 8-0 CCC. The team also defeated Monroe City 12-2 at sectionals before walking a tight rope that began with a 1-0 win over Bowling Green and a 4-2 extra-innings victory over Lathrop 4-2 prior to edging out Blair 3-2, also in extra inning, in the finals to claim the championship.
As for the programs recent history, according to maxpreps.com, in 2015 the Lady Panthers had a record of 17-3 overall, 8-0 CCC, and was eliminated in the second round of districts by South Shelby 10-0. While the information for 2014 was incomplete, in 2013 this team was 28-2 overall, 9-0 CCC, beating Blair Oaks 9-2 for the class 3 state title and in 2012 Centralia also claimed a championship with a record of 15-3 overall, 6-1 CCC, and defeating Grain Valley 3-0.