There was a bit of uncertainty in the air as Milton softball hit the field to begin the season, as the Panthers returned just one full-time starter from last season and are counting on freshmen to fill key roles this year.
During the past three seasons, the Panthers have been an upper-tier team in the Pensacola area with a combined 46-27 record and two appearances in the FHSAA state playoffs.
There may be room to grow for the inexperienced Panthers, but head coach Kevin Jordan is pleased with the effort he’s seen thus far through a 2-6 start.
“We don’t have a lot of starting experience on this team and our top three pitchers are freshman, but this team is working extremely hard,” Jordan said. “They are making strides and we aim to be playing our best softball towards the end of the season. We have been hitting the ball really well, for the most part, over our last five or six games. They are a cohesive group, they work hard and like each other.
“They play hard, are coachable and continue to get better.”
Junior third baseman Amanda Reeves entered this year with the pressure of being the team’s lone returning full-time starter.
She finished her sophomore year with a .324 batting average, 24 hits, 21 RBIs and two home runs. Reeves had a .912 fielding percentage with 37 assists and 25 putouts.
This season, she's hitting .450 and already has 12 RBIs and four homers.
The junior has made improved defense a point of emphasis to her teammates.
“We’ve got a little bit going on right now that we need to work on, but I think we can get it figured out and have a pretty good season,” Reeves said. “We’ve hit pretty good, but we’ve got to clean up a few little things at the plate. Our defense definitely needs to be stronger. We’ve got a good coach, we come in every day and work hard. Coach always uplifts us and makes sure we have good energy.”
Senior Haley Brown also brings valuable leadership to the youthful Panthers.
Last season, she finished with a .233 batting average, scored 15 runs and drove in four. She had a .875 fielding percentage with 21 putouts and 14 assists.
Brown has made a big stride this year and is batting .350 with a .480 on-base percentage. She’s scored eight runs.
“The leadership part this year has come pretty natural to me,” said Brown, who also is Milton High's Student Government Association secretary. “We have a lot of young girls on this team, but our bond is very strong. I think we can keep working, get it together and when we do, we click.”
The Panthers have a busy week ahead, hosting Crestview on Tuesday before traveling to Tate on Thursday.
Brian Achatz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org