Penny Moffitt, head coach of the Franklin High School varsity girl’s softball team, used four words to describe her team.
“We have it all,” said Moffitt. Her Lady Panthers are undefeated with an overall record of 9-0 and a Mountain Athletic Conference record of 7-0. Their record and the stat sheet clearly show that this team is loaded with talent.
The Lady Panthers have dominated their opposition this season, outscoring their competition 96-8 in their first nine games of the year. Their closest margin of victory was a 4-3 win over 4A powerhouse T.C. Roberson. Other notable wins include an 8-1 thumping of Swain, the top 1A team in the state and a walloping 10-1 victory over conference rival Pisgah.
The key to success for this team has been dominant pitching and hitting.
Juniors Chelsea Stanfield and Anissa Steele have led the way on the mound for the Lady Panthers. The duo has pitched in all nine wins this season, possessing a combined ERA of .53. Stanfield has held opposing batters to a hitting average of .145, recording 61 strikeouts in six games pitched.
Not to be outdone, Steele has held her opposition to a .213 batting average, with 14 strikeouts in only three games pitched. The arms of Stanfield and Steele have caused great frustration among opponents so far this year, and scoring on this dynamic duo has been difficult.
The Lady Panthers also have a potent offense to complement their outstanding pitching. They have averaged nearly 11 runs per game in the first nine games this season. All 12 players have at least a .300 batting average, culminating into a combined team batting average of .490. The balance of their offense makes opposing pitchers work that much harder. They can never let their guard down and take a single Lady Panther batter for granted.
“Laney Ledford has done an excellent job leading off for us this season,” said Moffitt. “She is one of our hottest hitters right now and she sets the tone for our offense.”
Ledford has recorded 10 hits in her last 11 at bats in wins over T.C., West Henderson and Tuscola.
Senior catcher Jordan Pickens leads the team in RBIs with 13. Sophomore Hayley Overholt is next in the RBI totals with 12. Stanfield has collected the most home runs so far this season with three. Pickens is close behind with two bombs of her own.
“They are the power in our lineup,” said Moffitt. The numbers are eye opening and reveal a strong offense from top to bottom. Furthermore, the Lady Panthers make contact and rarely strike out. In nine games played, the hard-hitting offense has recorded only 14 strikeouts, bad news for opposing pitchers.
Tuesday, March 29, the Panthers dominated the Mountaineers from Tuscola. The arm of Steele led the way pitching a five-inning shutout, giving up only two hits. Ledford’s RBI in the bottom half of the fifth inning forced the 10-run mercy rule to take effect, giving the undefeated Panthers a 10-0 win in decisive fashion.
This team’s record is proof of its talent and winning a state championship is a probable goal for this squad. Coach Moffitt is excited about the prospects.
“I’m not taking one minute for granted this year.” said Moffitt. “This group of girls is special. It takes so much more than talent to win state. It takes character and doing the right thing on and off the field.” she said. “Winning state and going undefeated are not unrealistic goals for us,” Moffitt concluded.
The Panthers will face a major challenge Thursday, March 31, when Enka comes to town. The non-conference rival ended the Lady Panthers dreams of a state title last year when they downed them 3-2 in the third round of the 3A state playoffs. Stanfield will be on the mound for the Panthers when they try to keep their goal of an undefeated season intact.
“If all of our players show up ready to play we are unbeatable” Moffitt said. A win Thursday would give the Panther softball team their 10th win on the season.