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First Lady Panthers practice rained out
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Friday afternoon was supposed to be Lady Panther softball coach Jerome Standard's first glimpse of what his team would look like for the upcoming season. But with lightning striking nearby and the rain moving in, he only got a quick glimpse of who was possibly returning and how many he may have to work with.
"It's an average turnout based on previous years," he said as he looked inside the dugout at the roughly 35 players seeking refuge from the rain.
The coach will have his work cut out for him as many of the key players from last season graduated.
"We lost Courtney Miles behind the plate," he said. "When you miss a battery player like her you are going to be hurting. She was also a big bat in the line up. We lost Ashley McRae, our shortstop. We lost Chelsea O'Quinn our third baseman. Nicole Graham was a key hitter so we lost a lot of run production."
Standard also lost an up and coming pitcher in Jacklyn Gonzales, who pitched on the varsity squad last season as a freshman. Her military family was transferred and moved to Colorado.
But not all is bleak for the Lady Panthers who finished 13-8 overall and 7-6 in the region (3S-AAA) last season earning them a spot in the playoffs.
Cassie Standard returns as the leading pitcher. Last season she batted over 400.
"Tyshunn Williams is set to return," the coach said smiling. "She has blazing speed and she hit over 300. Nazarenne Hines is picking it up and she has fantastic speed as well.  Our foot speed on the bases is going to be better. We have a few ninth graders that came out that have speed and we hope to use them as courtesy runners for our pitchers and catchers. Elyssa Lemapu is coming back, she is a threat and she hit over 200, hopefully she will be our mid-infielder again."
The coach said Lemapu's fielding skills are so in tune he plans to place her wherever the ball is being hit.
"If the ball is being hit behind her a lot we are going to play her at second," he said. "If they pull the ball we'll play her at short so she is key."
To help cover the gap lost behind the plate by Miles the coach thinks he may have found a replacement.
"Charlee Coursey has really stepped up and improved a tremendous amount," he said. "She will replace Miles and she has improved in her bats."
Dominique Sibley returns as a junior with the ability to cover first and third base. Her summer league team placed sixth in the recent softball World Series held in Savannah.
Standard said he was impressed with the girls who kept their skills honed by playing in the summer for the recreation league.
"Stephanie Cedola played well in the summer," he said. "Tracey Holton, Diana Jimenez, Bailey Carmichael and Karen Donaldson, we are expecting a lot of these newer players. Donaldson stayed with the weight-training program the entire summer and she is stronger and faster than she was."
Helping him prepare the Lady Panthers for the upcoming season is Lady Panther assistant coach Adrian Chapple but the coach did lose his statistician, Karen Swindell. She is the new Athletic Director at Long County High School.
"She is going to be missed and we are looking for her replacement," the coach said.
The coach will get another glimpse of his squad when tryouts resume on Monday and today at 4 p.m. Practice will start after tryouts.

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