Panthers softball seeking to build on 2019’s success

Penn Cambria senior Sydnie Reese slides into home plate during an April 10, 2018 contest against Bishop Carroll. Photo by Phil Andraychak.

CRESSON— The Penn Cambria softball team took another step forward a season ago after advancing to the district playoffs.

While the program loses standout pitchers Casey Reese and Macy Sral—who will be suiting up with Penn State Altoona and Edinboro, respectively, this spring—there is still plenty for the Lady Panthers to be excited about this year.

“I think the whole team is pretty talented for being so young,” senior Katrina Britton said. “We have a lot of girls that are trying to step up for the seniors that we lost last year. I feel like this group can make it really far if we trust each other.”

The loss of Casey Reese, who recorded over 100 hits in her career, will be tough to replicate. But her younger sister, Sydnie, returns on a team that is in prime position to make a run this season. Sydnie Reese led her team with a .518 average and 29 hits (19 singles, six doubles, two triples and two home runs), and she also recorded 25 runs, 17 RBIs and 16 walks.

“As a team this year, I feel like we’ve been a lot closer already,” Reese said. “The season hasn’t even started yet, and I feel like we already have really good chemistry.”

With basketball season now concluded for Penn Cambria, standout multi-sport athlete Lora Davis now makes the transition back to the diamond and looks to improve upon a strong 2019 campaign. Last season, Davis batted .418 in 54 at-bats, racking up 23 hits, 16 RBIs, and 19 runs.

“We’re a younger group, but at the same time, we’re not. I think we have a lot of talent and a lot of potential,” Davis said.

Last season, Penn Cambria had five players bat over .300, and the team totaled 180 total hits in 2019.

“I think our pitching can get a little better, but our batting should be pretty good if we just continue to work at it,” Britton said. “I think our fielding will come along with just practicing throughout the year.”

The Lady Panthers expect to be strong in all phases of the game this season, with an emphasis being placed on the defensive game. Last season, the Panthers allowed 44 errors. While many teams in the area average multiple errors per game, Penn Cambria is striving for greatness this year. The Panthers are looking to play a clean game this year and minimize its mistakes.

“The focus right now is our fielding,” Reese said. “We really focus on our fielding in order to win games. We need to have a good defense, and after that, the rest should come.”

The Panthers have shown flashes in the infield previously, evident by four double-plays in 2019. Davis will look to be a key cog defensively, and in 26 total chances last season, she boasted a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage.

“I feel like we should be strong up the middle. Our pitching, short[stop], second and center field should be really good,” Reese said. “We should be really solid. We’re really talented up the middle. Anything that is hit up the middle should be covered, and I think our entire infield is going to be strong.”

The Lady Panthers advanced to the District 6 Class 3A quarterfinals last season and were close to advancing before falling via walkoff in the eighth inning. With a strong nucleus returning this season, the Panthers feel the district playoffs—and possible more—is certainly within reach.

“It’s all going to come down to defense,” Britton said. “In our playoff game last season, we had virtually no errors, and we were almost able to pull off the upset.