Liberty County High School honored Lady Panther softball players at an annual awards banquet Thursday at the Liberty County Performing Arts Center.
Lady Panther softball coach Jerome Standard thanked parents, fans, booster club and team managers for their countless hours of service throughout the season.
The coach said the season was difficult because of injuries and challenges, some of which he joked about with the group.
“What I am about to say is in good humor ... no names will be mentioned … here are some of the reason of why they missed the games or why they were late for practice or a game,” the coach said. “My thumb hurts, my knee hurts and I got stung in the lip by a bee, my ankle hurts and my back is killing me.”
The coach read a litany of excuses drawing laughs from the crowd and blushes and smiles from the girls.
Standard said the girls tied a school record of 16 wins this season. The last time the Lady Panthers had 16 wins was in 2008 when, now assistant coach Cassie Standard was the team’s pitcher. Standard added that for the first time in the program’s history, one Lady Panther, Kathryn Carter, earned the region’s highest honor of pitcher of the year.
Standard and his daughter handed out the junior varsity awards first. Rookie of the year was awarded to Candice Blitch. The coaches’ award went to Carmae Gumataotao. A secondary coaches’ award was given to Cassidy Burriss. The sluggers award was given to Chelsey Beverly. The MVP award went to Caitlyn Tippett. And the golden glove was given to McKenna Tippett.
The coach recognized Beverly, Gumataotao, Matti Keith, Navia Telfair, Dejah Smith, Taylor Rine and Tia Anderson for their contributions to both the junior varsity and varsity teams this year.
Standard then announced the varsity award winners starting with his pick for the coaches’ award, Dejah Smith.
“This award goes to a young lady that was first at practice almost every day,” Standard said. “She was almost always the first person to help me load the bus … and I was happy to have her. She worked hard every day and got very little playing time and she never had a grievance.”
Rookie of the year went to Rine. The most improved award was given to three players because the coach said all three improved. They are Diamond Richardson, Anderson and Telfair. The golden glove went to Kaleigh Fisher. The slugger award went to Carter, who finished the year batting over 400. MVP was awarded to Rachel Smith. The final award, the academic award, was given to Matti Keith.
Standard recognized team manager Tanner Keith and presented a team jacket to him. The coach also awarded a jacket to statistician Mike Smith.
The five Lady Panthers who earned All-Region selections a few weeks earlier received their certificates. Besides Carter as pitcher of the year, Kaleigh Fisher, Rachel Smith and Taylor Rine made All-Region first team and Serina Davenport made All-Region honorable-mention.
“All these ladies played softball more than just at high school,” Standard said after handing out the certificates and encouraging his other players to follow the examples of the All-Region girls. “They play all the time and that is what makes a difference. That is why they are as good as they are.”
Standard said the Lady Panther booster club was the best in the school. After the awards ceremony, president Kimberly Thomas Ryon spoke about the fundraisers throughout the year, helping cover travel costs and meals, bought the girls new uniforms and the team jackets.
The club was also able to set aside funds for next season.
The nearly 80 folks in attendance were treated to a meal and a photo slide show of the girls throughout the season.