Leader Blues

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

SPORTS >> Lady Panthers take four seed into 7A state

Leader sportswriter

As long as there has been a high-school softball tournament in Arkansas, the Cabot Lady Panthers have been there.

The Lady Panthers will make their 11th consecutive trip to state on Friday when they travel to Bentonville as the No. 4 seed out of the 7A-Central Conference. They will play the West No. 5 seed on Friday at 4 p.m.

A first-round win over Rogers in last year’s state tournament broke a three-year drought of being one and done for Cabot, something coach Becky Steward said she hopes will lead to even more success this year.

“Hopefully we can take what we did last year and go a step further with that this year,” said Steward. “If they play like they are capable of playing, we can go in and make some noise.”

The Lady Panthers are led by the senior trio of catcher Pete Reed, centerfielder Becca Bakalekos and four-year starting pitcher Cherie Barfield.

Bakalekos has put up the best batting numbers as Cabot’s lead-off with a .457 average. Barfield’s numbers on the mound are equally impressive with a 15-7 season record, and an ERA of 1.11 to go along with 114 strikeouts and 21 base-on-balls.

Cabot’s opponent for the first round will most likely be Fort Smith Southside or Springdale. The lower seeds in the West were still not decided at press time, but both teams feature young rosters.

The mood in the Lady Panthers camp has been fairly casual during the past week after a dramatic 7-6 win over Bryant last Tuesday, according to Steward, who doesn’t mind the low-key atmosphere heading into the final week of the season.

“How well we do depends on the kids and how they feel,” said Steward. “They’ve been pretty laid back, which could be a good thing. They’re not pressing the issue on anything – they’re just practicing and going over the same routines that they’ve done all year.

“The weather is going to be the biggest factor. We just hope to go out and have a normal game and go on.”