A discussion of Lakeside's softball history wouldn't be complete without mentioning two Lady Panther seniors.
Hillary Hall and Kayle Hutchins, team leaders on this season's squad, have been a staple for the Lady Panthers for the past three years. They have started since their freshman seasons and have earned all-county recognition each season since then.
"It seems like they've been here as long as I have," Matthews said. "They're everything we want this program to represent."
Just like this year's team, that 2003 squad had its own senior leadership. Four seniors, Jamie Lake, Ansley Evans, M.J. Trahan and Kim Leeds led the Lady Panther team to a 29-9 record and at one time a sixth-place ranking in the state.
Hall and Hutchins were a big part of that team. It all started on the first day of tryouts.
"I came from a middle school in North Augusta so I was scared to death. Kayle was the first one to talk to me," Hall said.
The two have been best friends ever since. They also found immediate success on the softball diamond. Despite playing as freshmen on a talented team, Hall and Hutchins earned starting roles.
"Sometimes you'll see where you're having to start freshmen out of necessity," Matthews said. "They actually came in their freshman year and pushed some returning starters out of position. They were playing because they deserved to be there - not because I didn't have any other options."
Three years later, those freshmen are now seniors on a team with similar potential. The Lady Panthers haven't won a state tournament game since 2003. Matthews said this year's squad resembles the 2003 team in more than a few ways, however.
"(There are) a lot of similarities with this year's team," he said. "We had four seniors that year, we have four seniors this year. That year our seniors were intimidating figures as far as if you didn't do something they would let you know about it. Kayle and Hillary, sometimes they might tend to be too nice, but they also lead by example."
Last Thursday, the seniors once again did their part in a 5-0 win over region opponent Statesboro. Hall, as she's done since her freshman season, was on the catching end of a three-hit shutout and went 2-for-4 at the plate. Hutchins played a flawless game at her usual spot at shortstop then batted 2-for-3 on the day. The win improved Lakeside to 10-5 on the season and 2-1 in Region 3-AAAA play.
The Lady Panthers will take on Evans Thursday for a key region match up at Lakeside.
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