Lady Panthers beat LCHS for first district win in 10 years
By Jim Turner

Posted on May 21, 2015 10:19 PM

The Year of Lady Panther Resurgence peaked Monday when Coach Brandy Trimble’s team beat homestanding Logan County 2-1 in the opening round of the 13th District Softball Tournament.

It was Russellville’s first postseason win since Coach Tom Thompson’s Lady Panthers beat Coach Toby Turpin’s Lady Cougars 3-0 on May 24, 2005, six days short of a decade.

Sophomore Tara Gilbert was masterful on the mound for RHS, pitching a two-hit, no-walk, one-run jewel. The Lady Cougars managed only five baserunners against her and the run was unearned.

Sophomore Malynn Ray scored the Lady Panthers’ first run. She led off with a double, and advanced on a sacrifice bunt by her sister Brooklyn, an eighth grader. After Rachel Fisher—the only senior on either team—walked, the older Ray scored when sophomore Cierra Collins reached on an error.

Russellville made it 2-0 in the third when Fisher walked and both Collins and Tonisha Hampton, another eighth grader, reached on Logan errors.

The Lady Panthers took advantage of scoring opportunities. The two runs came from six girls who reached base, but only one of them got a hit off Logan pitcher Meagan Ferguson, a junior.

Logan’s only run came via an error, too. After junior Rachel Barnett reached on an error in the sixth inning. Brea Croslin, a seventh grader who was a starter for the Lady Panthers two years ago as a fifth grader, forced her at second. Then sophomore Macy Meacham, who was also starting for the Lady Panthers two seasons ago as an eighth grader, singled for one of the two hits Gilbert allowed. Then Croslin scored on an error, but the Lady Cougars were unable to get the tying run across.

The other hit Gilbert relinquished came on a two-out single by junior outfielder Torrie Pollard in the first inning.

Coach Michael Crawford’s Lady Cougars threatened in the second inning. Junior third baseman Sierra Morrow reached on an error and got to third when a ball got past catcher Tiffany Gray, but Gilbert pitched out of it.

Russellville stats showed the Lady Panthers with five hits, two each by the Ray sisters and the other by Hampton. Fisher and Gilbert each walked twice.

Other starters for the winning Lady Panthers were junior Johnea Pendleton and sophomore Allison McDaniel, who contributed to the RHS defense.

This has been a remarkable year for the Lady Panthers. In the previous eight seasons under four different coaches, the team had struggled to just 16 wins while losing 171 times. A win over Todd Central early in the season was the first district victory for the program since 2006.

Then came an eye-opening 3-2 win over Logan. The Lady Panthers went on a seven-game win streak to sit atop the early regional standings. Tough losses came later, including a 4-3 decision at Logan, but Russellville did the unthinkable, beating Bowling Green 6-5 in eight innings on May 11.

The win over Logan in the third one-run Clash of the Cats gave the Lady Panthers an 11-15 record. Logan finished a somewhat disappointing season with a 13-21 worksheet. After starting 3-0, Logan lost 10 straight games and never won two games in a row after April 21.

Making the victory over Logan more meaningful to the RHS coaches are that the Nuyt sisters—head coach Brandy Nuyt Trimble and Assistant Coach Amanda Nuyt Hampton—are among the Lady Cougars’ best-ever softball players. Assistant Coach Jessie Baker also has been an integral part of the Lady Panthers’ improvement.

The following evening, Russellville lost another nailbiter in the championship game to perennial champion Franklin-Simpson by a single run. Both RHS and F-S will advance to regional next week.

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