Tradition-rich Friend has joined ranks with Fillmore Central and Exeter-Milligan on the softball field this year. The Panthers have had a roller-coaster start to their year—losing their first four games, winning their next five contests and now losing four straight.
Top returning players for FCEMF include Kayla Geiger and Jacy Schlueter, along with Caitlin Murphy, Kelsi Gaston, Georgia Meyer and Vanessa Lukes. Jackie Schelkopf is back playing softball this year and Caitlin Sharkey and Megan Rumery come over from Friend. The Panthers were 12-21 a season ago.
“This will be a very different team due to adding Friend into our softball co-op,” FCEMF head coach Aaron Lauby said. “It could allow us to add talent and depth to a solid core group of returners. We look forward to figuring out how it all fits together and creating a consistent, and competitively fundamental team. We always play a difficult schedule that challenges us and forces us to improve so we can play our best come District time.”
The Panthers opened up 2019 with losses to Blue Hill, Bishop Neumann, Centennial and Fairbury. Then, FCEMF defeated Raymond Central, Twin Rivers, Ord, Southern Valley and Blue Hill. In the current four-game skid, the Panthers have lost to Southern/Diller-Odell, Aurora, Centennial and Hastings St. Cecilia.
“We are going to early in the season really try to build up our pitching depth, and will need some younger and inexperienced pitchers to get their innings in,” Lauby said. “This might be tough but worth it towards development and keeping all of our pitchers healthy. There are definitely some intriguing underclassmen that I could see contributing a lot and they will get their moments in practice to show they earned those opportunities.”
See page 10A for game summaries so far this year.