• 68°

Lady Panthers’ strong defense will be key

Defense will be the Brookhaven Lady Panthers’ key strength as they prepare to kick off their season Aug. 11 against Lawrence County in slowpitch softball at Monticello. The Lady Panthers will have four seniors providing leadership with Christen Benson, Shelby Peavey, Rashana Stewart and Shelby Case.

     “We have an experienced team returning,” said Brookhaven head coach Chad Walker. “We are working hard in practice to improve on our hitting.”

     Walker, 41, will be starting his second season as head coach for Brookhaven. His assistant coaches are Mandy Vinson and Megan Case. Walker has 25 players on his 2012 softball squad.

     The Lady Panthers will be looking to improve on a 19-10 season record last year and a 10-2 record in district play. Brookhaven has set its sight to return to the promised land in Jackson since winning the South State Championship and finishing as runners-up in the State 5A Finals three years ago.

     The Lady Panthers have seven returning starters to help in the field: Benson at left-center field, Stewart at right-center field, Peavey at second base, Case at left field, Katherine Shell at third base, Katie Grace Culpepper at first base and Taylor Murray at shortstop.

     Brookhaven lost two starters to graduation last year: shortstop Erica Bridwell and pitcher Brooke Hosick. Bridwell signed a softball scholarship to play for the Co-Lin Lady Wolves.

     The Lady Panthers also lost senior first baseman Emily Freeman, who moved to Petal after her stepfather, Tucker Peavey, accepted a job to coach USM’s offensive line.

     “We have the pieces to have a very successful season defensively,” continued Walker. “But our main focus for the season will be on our pitching and consistent hitting throughout the lineup.”

     Christen Benson is among the leaders returning that help the team with a .448 batting average in 2011.

     The Lady Panthers’ first home game will be against the Franklin County Lady Bulldogs on Aug. 14. The junior varsity game will precede the varsity game.