By Ray Hamill — One year on from their historic treble-winning season, the Panthers will feature a very new-look team on the softball diamond this spring.
McKinleyville returns just five varsity players, although head coach Shanna McCracken likes a lot of what she’s seen so far from her younger players.
“We’re fairly young. We had a lot of girls graduate, so we’ve got some girls learning the ropes,” McCracken said. “A lot of the girls are catching on quickly. The mental part of the game is getting there.”
The physical part of the game will come with more reps and the Panthers will get the opportunity to get in some live action at this Saturday’s H-DNL jamboree, hosted by the Fortuna Huskies at Newburg Park.
Most of the H-DNL teams will be on hand, including all of the Big 5, with one-hour games throughout the day.
It will be the second scrimmage for the defending Big 5 champs, who traveled to Yuba City last weekend.
“I think we needed it,” McCracken said. “The girls need to see what they’re up against. They haven’t necessarily seen this speed of softball before.”
Despite their overall youth, the Mack girls do have experience in some key positions.
Mikayla Minton, who recently signed a letter of intent to play at powerhouse Linfield College after graduation, will be the ace in the pitcher’s circle, returning along with Lexi White, Ashley Ballew, Allison McCarthy and Allie Egbert.
And there are some promising newcomers as well.
“We’ve got a few freshmen that have definitely impressed us,” McCracken said. “We should be alright. We have a lot of athletic girls.”
As of right now, the Panthers have no official games scheduled until their own tournament on March 20 and 21, but McCracken said she may add a game or two beforehand.