By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Lady Panthers set eyes on Region 3-A

    PORTAL — After a long summer, opening day is finally here for Portal softball, and after a successful run in 2009, the Lady Panthers are primed to take things a step further this season.
    Only two players are gone from a squad that reached last year’s postseason, and the past few years of rebuilding has led Portal to this season, where nine seniors with plenty of experience form a solid and talented core.
    “We feel very positive heading into this year,” said Portal coach Shannon Davis. “In my four years coaching, this is the most experienced and prepared team that we’ve had at the beginning of a season. If we’re going to make a run in the playoffs, this is the year for us to do it.”
    Among the many strengths for the Panthers are a stingy infield defense and a batting order that figures to be stocked with table setters and run producers.
    Senior shortstop Nikki Sims brings a good eye and great speed to the leadoff spot and fellow seniors Boshna Williams, Brionna Flood and Megan Anderson form an imposing middle of the order that will me a minefield for opposing pitchers to dance through.
    “Our hitting has improved immensely over the offseason,” said Davis. “Things have just started to click. It’s amazing to see how far ahead of last season many of the girls are at the plate.”
    “I feel like we should have a pretty good offense,” said Sims. “Defensively, I think that we’ll be good because we work together and know each other. This infield has been together for three years and we know that we can count on Megan to pitch well and not make us work too hard.”
    Handling the pitching duties for Portal will be seniors Megan Moore and Mary Ashley Henly.
    Heading into her third season as the ace of the staff, Moore is hopeful that another year of experience will lead to an even better season on the mound.
    “I’ve been playing travel ball and pitching all summer,” said Moore. “I think that has made me a little stronger. I just want to concentrate on throwing strikes and not walking batters. I feel like I’ve got a strong defense behind me, so I’m not afraid to let them make plays.”
    The biggest question mark for the Panthers heading into the season doesn’t stem from within the team, but rather with the opponents on Portal’s schedule.
    This season’s region realignment has kept the Panthers in Region 3-A, but has shifted them from the East division into the West. With the move, Portal escapes a division that included perennial powerhouses such as Savannah Christian, Calvary Day and Bryan County.
    Although Portal’s new home in the West division still contains plenty of talent — new division rival Johnson County defeated the Panthers in last season’s playoffs — there is a feeling among Panther players and staff that this year will bring a more favorable schedule.
    “We really don’t know much about the teams on our new side of the region,” said Davis. “It’s hard to imagine that they’ll be more difficult than having to play those Savannah schools. We’re confident that we’ll be ready for whatever any of these teams throws at us.”
    Portal gets things started tonight, hosting Jenkins County at 6 p.m. The Panthers defeated the Lady Eagles in both meetings last season.

    Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.