The last few years have been some tough ones for the Portal softball team. A playoff squad in 2010 was hit hard by graduation and the Lady Panthers have struggled to regain their edge.
This season features another young squad, but catcher Caitlyn Girardeau has Portal moving in the right direction.
While just a sophomore, Girardeau was a contributor last season and is stepping up with others – like lone senior Kenya Huff — to become a leader.
“I just try to set a good example,” Girardeau said. “There are a lot of ninth graders and some other girls who are new to the team. I’m just trying to help them out while doing my best to get better.”
Girardeau fired up the Panthers in their first win of the season last week. After losing its season opener in walk-off fashion, Portal dug itself an 8-0 hole against Statesboro. The Panthers battled back to make it 8-6 before Girardeau teed off on a pitch for a two-run triple, then scored on a wild throw to give her team the lead. Girardeau added another hit as the Panthers held on for a wild 15-14 win.
“After that first loss, we were devastated to fall behind so quickly,” Girardeau said. “But I don’t think anyone gave up. I was glad that I could do my part to help. Hopefully, that win will get us on our way to have a better season this year.”
With about a half dozen running backs filling out Statesboro’s backfield depth chart this season, carries might be at a premium. During last week’s scrimmage against Southeast Bulloch, Akarri Williams certainly made his case for getting a big share of the load this year.
Williams carried nine times for 90 yards and twice powered in for a touchdown as the Blue Devils showcased an explosive running attack.
“It was definitely fun to have a good game,” Williams said. “I think we’re all just excited and ready for the season to start.”
Plenty of other talented runners will share ball-carrying duties as Sherrodric Rawls and Diquan Brunson are returning starters and transfer Zach Grant figures to make an immediate impact.
In a backfield that is long on speed but short – quite literally – on size, Williams’ strength will be crucial for the Devils’ inside running game.
“Who gets the ball and when isn’t too important to me,” Williams said. “I think we’re all ready to block for each other and then do whatever we can when we get the ball.”
Williams and the Devils have one more week of practice before opening up the regular season next Friday against Lakeside, Evans.