The Lady Panthers saw their season come to an end last Friday night when they took on Fred T. Foard (22-5), losing to the Tigers for the third straight year. The team had hoped to avenge losses from the 2011 and 2012 seasons, but were unable to pull off the win, losing 2-1 in the third round of the state play-offs. Despite the loss, the team enjoyed a highly successful year posting a 15- 6 record overall.
“The Franklin High School softball team had a great season,” said FHS principal Chris Baldwin. “They represented us very well in the state playoffs, but Fred T. Foard has seemed to have our number for the past few years.”
The Panthers began their season with a four game winning streak, making it clear that they were going to make a mark on their division. Knocking off conference rivals like Smoky Mountain and Tuscola and avenging a loss to Pisgah helped to continually fuel the team's confidence making them a discouraging match-up for any team they were set to encounter in the playoffs.
This was apparent in the first round when they took on the Hibriten Panthers. Franklin showcased the full spectrum of the talent possessed by the team, putting on a clinic that eventually led to a 13-1 win and the advancement to the second round to play a strong South Point team in Belmont, N.C. This victory would not come as easily as the first.
The 19-4 Red Raiders looked as though they were ready to snuff out the Lady Panthers' season early as they took the lead, 5-0, through the second and third innings, but that changed in the fourth when Franklin put up four runs of their own and put themselves within striking distance. In the top of the sixth, they took a one run lead, but found themselves tied as the seventh inning came to a close. With a score of 6-6, the game went into extra innings and one was all that would be needed to realize a winner of the game. In the top of the eight, Amy Underwood was able to drive in Haylee Overholt to go up, 7-6. The Panthers held off the Raiders for the win.
With another victory to tack on to their season record, the Panthers also earned one more shot at Foard who has become their play-off rivals over the last three years. In 2011, Tiger pitcher Lexi Shubert, held the Panthers scoreless in a 3-0 route and again in 2012, 1-0.
This year, Foard's first two games were complete shutouts as they beat Forestview 11-0 in the first round and R-S Central 3-0 in the second before facing off against Franklin in the third. Once again, it would be Shubert on the mound.
Foard was able to strike first when they scored their first run in the top of the second inning and until the bottom of the fourth it looked as though they were on their way to their third consecutive shutout of the playoffs not to mention their third consecutive year of shutting out the Panthers. The Lady Panthers continually showed signs of life, consistently putting runners on base and finally put a run across the plate tying the score at 1-1, but the Tigers matched it in the fifth and pulled ahead 2-1 where the score would remain eventually leading to the Panthers' exit from the playoffs. Despite the loss, this year's game looked significantly different than the ones in the past with Franklin keeping it close by mounting an offensive. According to reports, Shubert struck out only 12 batters, a significant decrease from years past.
“I think we've had a great season,” said FHS sophomore and left-fielder, Jordan Carpenter following Friday's loss. “The team was made up of a great group of girls who all had a lot of talent, we just came up a little short against Fred T. Foard.”
This is the fourth year that Franklin has advanced to the third round and next year's team hopes to have a similarly successful year as well.
“Next year, I think we will have a good, strong team and we have great coaches,” said Carpenter. “We're hoping for a state championship.”
Though the school year is almost over and the high school athletes will have a chance to enjoy their summer, anticipation for next year's athletics may start early as a result of the successful teams the school produced for the 2012-2013 season.