By Curtis Marlin Portland Leader
PHS softball coach Vanessa Tomlinson was hoping the Lady Panthers’ late season success would lead to more girls trying out for the 2018 squad. But, Tomlinson was disappointed in the turnout in picking next spring’s team.
“We didn’t have many to tryout and I don’t know why,” Tomlinson said. “We had a good year and made a run in the postseason. I’m not sure why more didn’t come out.”
The Purple entered the district tournament as the seventh seed but ended up just two outs away from clinching the district title. Portland finished as runner-up in tough District 9-AAA and lost to Henry County in the first round of the regionals.
Tomlinson lost just one senior off the 2017 team in Kaylynn Brown and like all high school coaches, was looking for more pitching in tryouts.
“We were looking for some pitchers and role players,” Tomlinson said. “We do have a couple of sophomores we are looking to step up next year as pitchers.”
Tomlinson will have to fill two outfield spots as well as second base next spring.
“We want girls that can play more than one position,” Tomlinson said.
Pitching does seem to be in good shape with All-District performer Mac Fitzgerald returning for her sophomore season. Fitzgerald led the team in RBIs and extra base hits and was named Offensive Player of the Year and team Most Valuable Player at last month’s softball banquet.
Four of the eight fielding positions have returning starters back for the 2018 campaign.
Sophomore Abbie Tomlinson, who was awarded the Golden Glove Award for best fielding percentage and was tied for the team lead in homeruns, returns at first base with senior Rachel Jennings coming back at shortstop. Jennings was given the Coaches’ Award and was named to the All-District tournament team.
Another sophomore, Anna Herrera will be back at third base and Scarlet Shetters returns at catcher. Senior Bailey Bennett, an All-District tournament selection and one of three players tied for most homeruns, will get the nod at one of the outfield spot and Mackenzie Hodges will get a look in the outfield.
“The team looks promising,” Tomlinson said. “We want more team unity and girls that are hungry and wanting to play softball the way I feel it should be done.”
Members of the 2018 team are seniors Rachel Jennings, Baleigh Bennett along with juniors Anna Herrera, Mackenzie Hodges, Scarlet Shetters and Kellie Kepley. The sophomore class includes Mac Fitzgerald, Abbie Tomlinson, Abi Thomerson, Cailey Walker, Samantha Robertson, Sami Parker, Daley McCloud, Nevaeh Whittaker and Taylor Elder.
Qierra Gregory, Lillie Whitehead and Abbie Barrett make up the freshmen class.