The Portal Panthers are coming off only their second appearance in the softball state playoffs since moving to fastpitch.
Head Coach Travis Motes will have big shoes to fill as he loses his top player, who just happens to be his daughter Kolbie who is off to play at East Georgia College. The good news is that he is the only player from the state playoff team that he loses.
“We made some huge steps in the right direction last year,” Motes said. “We have a lot of sophomores who have really stepped things up. A lot of those underclassmen have taken up leadership roles.”
“We have two seniors in Madison Cook and Brianna Milton who we are expecting big things from at the plate, as well as in the field,” Motes said. “For the first time since I’ve been here we also have some girls that can come off the bench, and there won’t be a drop off between them and the starters.”
Like many other area schools, the Panthers have been put behind as many players who typically play travel ball have been limited over the past four months.
“We have tried to utilize the time we have had the best way we can,” Motes said. “There are quite a few steps we now have to go through to provide safety for everyone, but we have been able to get in some good work.”
Motes feels with the depth the team has, that will allow for girl’s to play multiple positions and playing time will be spread out.
“I’m going to play the best nine players at any time,” Motes said. “One week that could look a lot different than another. The girl's know that and they are fine with it.They know what happens at practice will determine playing time that week.”
The rotation isn’t limited to position players, as Motes will continue to rotate his pitching staff as well.
“We have the luxury of having girls we can run out to the mound that have a variety of styles,” Motes said. “Riley Lamb and Blair Brannen are our two aces, and they are both sophomores. Madison Cook and Kelcy Williams have also both pitched for usand they have a different approach that we feel can help us in certain situations.”
One of the other things that will be new to Portal this year is they will have their very first junior varsity team. The JV team will be a combination of ninth graders as well as eighth graders who used to play middle school.
“This year we will be moving our either graders up and have them play JV,” Motes said. “We will have our sixth and seventh graders play other teams' sixth and seventh graders, and we will concentrate on fundamentals with them. The eighth graders will get a good chance to prepare for high school ball and we will also be able to find more playing time for ninth graders who may have been just sitting on the bench.”
Portal opens the 2020 season on the road Friday and Saturday at the Warrior Blast Tournament in Reidsville.