Area high school softball teams began preseason practices in August with no more than two weeks to prepare for the start of the regular season. The limited practice time meant the first few games of the season would start before most coaches completed their full evaluation of this year's talent.
At Lakeside, those first few games came last weekend at the 2006 Battle in the 'Boro Softball Tournament in Statesboro, Ga. One of Lakeside's region opponents, Statesboro High School, was the host in the two-day tournament at Mill Creek Regional Park. The 16-team tournament gave Lakeside coach Jay Matthews an ideal opportunity to see what his team was made of.
"I got with the rest of the coaching staff and we were just talking about how most of these teams came into this tournament with six or seven games already under their belt," Matthews said. "We only had one game, so we were a bit behind."
The lack of games didn't show as the Lady Panthers won three of their five games in two days. The wins improved Lakeside's record to 4-2 after a season-opening blowout win over Baldwin. Lady Panthers pitcher Andrea Batchelor threw a no-hitter in that first game, but Matthews said the weekend's tournament had one distinct advantage over that first big win.
"We like the win, but when you throw a no-hitter your defense isn't really tested," he said. "We saw that here, and we've got to get better on defense."
After winning both games on Friday, a defensive error in extra innings in the fourth game of the tournament cost Lakeside a win against Cross Creek on Saturday.
The Lady Panthers' only other loss came in their first game of the day on Saturday when Lakeside led Class AAAAA Tifton 1-0 in the fifth inning but couldn't hold on for the win.
"A lot of times you learn more about your team in a loss than you do in a win," Matthews said. "With these girls even if we ended up 4-1 they wouldn't have been satisfied."
With the sting of a close loss to Cross Creek still on their minds, the Lady Panthers bounced back immediately with a 6-1 win over the host team to capture third place in the silver bracket in Lakeside's final game of the tournament.
Sophomore Kaitlin Hill got her second win of the weekend in the final game against Statesboro while Lakeside's first seven batters of the game reached base safely. The Lady Panthers led 4-0 before Statesboro had a chance to bat.
"We came just to see what we had, and I think we put up a good fight," senior catcher Hillary Hall said. "After the loss we came back and got our heads in the game."
After starting the season with six games on the road, Lakeside will finally play on its own diamond today at 5:30 p.m. for its home opener against Baldwin.
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