Lady Panthers capture region title


Shelby Foster

The Lady Panthers softball team hoists their region championship trophy. After sweeping the region tournament, Starr’s Mill won their first region title in 11 years.

Rilee Stapleton, Editor-in-Chief

For the first time since 2006, the Starr’s Mill Lady Panthers are region champions. The Lady Panthers swept the region tournament, winning all four of the games they played. After crushing Griffin in the first round, the Panthers beat Whitewater in back-to-back games to bring the region crown back to the Mill.

“It’s been a long time,” head coach Mark Williamson said. “It’s a good, nice, sweet victory.”

Lilly Carter
Sophomore Paige Andrews pitches the ball during a game against Griffin. The Panthers defense shined against the Bears, only giving up two runs throughout both games.

Sophomore pitchers Paige Andrews and Wakana Sato each played very well for the Mill. Both pitchers only allowed 12 combined runs throughout the entire tournament. Everyone in the field played well, while the hitting was led by seniors Jordan Childress and Emily Nieuwstraten, and junior Kate Ashmore.  

“The girls played really well,” Williamson said. “We had some big hits and some big defensive plays.”

In the first game of the region tournament, the Lady Panthers met with Griffin for the third time of the season. Starr’s Mill opened their season with an 8-0 win over the Bears, and later defeated them on the road, 9-3.

This game didn’t take long to turn out like the others. After a quick three outs in the top of the first, the Lady Panthers brought out the bats. Multiple RBI hits, including ones from Ashmore and Andrews gave Starr’s Mill an early 3-0 lead after one inning.

Both teams were quiet in the second inning, but Griffin’s offense picked up in the third. The Bears used aggressive baserunning to cut into their deficit, but only managed one run. In the bottom half of the third, however, the Panthers answered in a big way. After already adding three runs to give themselves a 6-1 lead, Childress blasted a 2-run home run to centerfield. A couple batters later, freshman Lauren Flanders smacked an RBI triple, and caused the game to end in mercy rule, by a score of 9-1.

“When I get up to the plate, I focus on getting a base hit and moving the runners on base,” Ashmore said.

The second match didn’t see much change from the first, as the Panthers tacked on seven runs in the top of the first inning. Griffin was only able to follow up with a single run, and trailed 7-1 very early.

By the time the third inning rolled around, the Bears still trailed 9-1, but Starr’s Mill wasn’t done yet. Junior Laura Sellers hit an RBI single in between RBI doubles from Ashmore and Childress. Sato then hit an RBI single of her own. When it was Griffin’s turn to bat in the bottom of the third, they stared into a 15-1 deficit. Unable to put up anymore runs, the Bears suffered another mercy rule loss, and they went home having been outscored 24-2 in the two games they played.

It’s huge to have pitchers who can do their job in the circle and then do their job at the plate.”

— head coach Mark Williamson

“It’s nice having pitchers who can hit,” Williamson said. “It’s huge to have pitchers who can do their job in the circle and then do their job at the plate.”

The following week, the Lady Panthers met a more formidable foe, the Whitewater Wildcats. The two teams split their regular season matchups, with Whitewater winning an extra-innings thriller 5-4, while the Panthers topped them weeks later, 10-6.

One of the Mill’s main offensive weapons is their baserunning. They put this on display against the Wildcats. To begin the first game, Flanders led off for the Panthers. After getting on first base, she began to steal. She stole second and third, and later scored on a wild pitch. A few batters later, Childress hit a 2-RBI double to put the Panthers in front, 3-0.

“We had some really heads-up baserunning plays at times,” Williamson said. “We were into the game a little more tonight.”

Neither team scored in the third inning, but the Lady Panthers showcased their fielding abilities. Nieuwstraten made multiple impressive plays at third to stop Whitewater from scoring. However, in the top of the fourth, the Wildcats hit their stride. Andrews began to struggle and before long, the score was even at 3-3.

Shelby Foster
A Panther infielder throws the ball to first base. Despite splitting the two regular season games against Whitewater, the Panthers beat the Wildcats in both games during the region tournament.

Flanders and Childress stepped up for Starr’s Mill in the fifth inning. Childress crushed her second 2-run homerun of the tournament, and Flanders later followed with an RBI single. The Panthers defense protected the lead for the next two innings, and Starr’s Mill won the first game 6-3.

“I was super proud of the infield,” Childress said. “We glued together and we were lucky enough to pull out a win.”

The second game was back-and-forth throughout all seven innings. Ashmore hit a 2-RBI double in the top of the first, but Whitewater answered with two runs in the bottom half of the inning. Ashmore again batted another runner in during the second inning, and Childress also added two RBIs. However, the 5-2 lead didn’t last long. The Wildcats responded with four runs in the bottom of the second inning, and yanked the lead away from the Panthers.

Both teams battled through the next five innings, but Starr’s Mill tied the score with an RBI single from Laura Sellers in the fourth inning. The following inning, the Lady Panthers tacked on two more runs, including another RBI from Ashmore. Both teams each scored once more in the seventh inning, and Starr’s Mill captured the region championship after a 9-7 victory.

“I’m super excited, it’s a great way to go out,” Childress said. “Hopefully it will help us at state.”

The Panthers host Ola in the first round of the AAAAA state playoffs. The Mustangs are 20-7 on the season, and despite boasting a 15-3 region record, they are the fourth seed from region 4-AAAAA. The two teams will meet on Oct 11, playing two games that day. If they split the two, another game will be played on Oct 12.