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(PANA) — The 2022 Pana High School softball team consists of, in front from left, Olivia Anderson, Jessica Vaughn, Izzy Reed, Grace Harmston and Bailey Evrley. Middle row, Lauren Ambrose, Elly Kime, Hayleigh Manuel and Allie Sarver. In back, Shelby Ashcraft, Kiley Ladage, Kylie Hendrickson, Breanna Houseman and Kylie Evrley.
Tom Latonis Breeze-Courier Photo
(PANA) — The success of the Pana softball Panthers this season rides with a youthful group. Fifth year head coach, Marty Cloe will blend underclassmen along with veteran upper classmen to forge a solid team which will compete for the conference crown and a run into the state playoffs.
Kiley Ladage and Grace Harmston will provide the leadership at the senior level for Pana. Ladage is the team’s returning MVP and has signed a National Letter of Intent to play softball at Southwestern Illinois College. She was the team’s leading hitter in 2021. Lefty Harmston is a four-year starter and was second in RBI’s with 21 last year and will play first base. The future of senior Kylie Hendrickson is in doubt. Cleared about three weeks ago to play after suffering a right knee injury last year, she suffered a left knee injury early in the season which may jeopardize the rest of her season.
Of the juniors, Olivia Anderson, left fielder, is a good defensive player according to Cloe and Breanna Houseman at third will be a solid offensive threat (.340 last year) who possesses good power. Kayleigh Manuel and Elly Kime will fill rolls and can help the team both offensively and defensively.
Switch-hitting Bailey Evrley will provide up the middle defense at second and can cover shortstop when called upon. Cole said she is a good bunter. Jessica Vaughn is a utility player and can switch hit.
Two freshmen with junior high and travel team experience are Shelby Ashcraft and Kylie Early, both pitchers. Early will be at short when Ashcraft is on the bump. Each have 10 to 12 wins under their belt. Both throw hard, according to Cloe. Allie Sarver will patrol center field. She possesses good speed and is “a hard-nosed kid” according to the coach. Izzy Reed will be behind the plate and is also expected to play second. Lauren Ambrose has good fundamentals and will make a contribution, according to the coach. Four of the freshmen are in the starting lineup this season.
The Panthers will look to improve on a 10-13 record from last season and they have as a goal winning 20 games this season. Cole feels like Gillespie and Piasa will be contenders int he South Central Conference race, but feels the Panthers can compete with all of them.
With as many as seven freshmen and sophomores in this season’s starting lineup, Cloe feels like the softball future at Pana is bright.