Northside teams expecting big things

Published 7:02 am Tuesday, March 3, 2009

By By STEVE FRANKLIN, Sports Writer
YEATESVILLE — The snow flakes fell outside Northside High School on Monday afternoon, but spring was in the air as the Panthers’ baseball and softball teams prepped for today’s season openers.
Northside will take to the diamond against North Pitt in baseball action, while the Lady Panthers will play host to Washington. Both squads enter this year with high expectations.
The Panthers’ baseball team is hoping to improve on its 13-10 mark from a season ago and will do so with a plethora of talent.
Northside returns leading hitters junior first baseman/designated hitter Tyler Woolard (.445) and sophomore second baseman Dee Martin (.412), and will also get a much needed boost from senior Bradley Slade, who sat out last season, but led the Panthers in batting average as a sophomore.
Also returning to the Panthers’ lineup will be Thack Cutler, who moves from third base to catcher, senior first baseman/pitcher Holden Cox, left fielder Zack Boyd and right fielders Grant Fath and Justin Boyd.
Among the newcomers that Boyd is high on are juniors David Howard and Eric Collier, who will play shortstop and third base respectively, as well as utility infielder Josh Latham.
The one question mark for Northside will be pitching. The Panthers lost starting pitchers William Rushton, Aaron McKinney and Ethan Coltran.
Cox is the only Panthers’ pitcher to see varsity action. He’ll be joined on the mound by Slade, Zack Boyd and Isaiah McCullor.
Boyd is hoping that his team’s solid offense and stellar defense will make up for the lack of pitching experience as Northside vies for the Atlantic Conference crown.
Lady Panthers have high hopes
Northside coach Louise Beirne is hoping that a mix of savvy veterans and a talented corps of young players will be the perfect recipe for a run at the Atlantic Conference crown and a strong showing in the state playoffs.
The Lady Panthers, 14-10 a season ago, return five starters from a team that reached the quarterfinals of the NCHSAA Class 1A State Tournament in 2008.
Leading the Panthers’ charge is senior flame-thrower Amanda Beirne, who returns for her fourth year as Northside’s starting pitcher. Beirne earned all-state honors a year ago after allowing just 29 earned runs in 24 starts.
Surrounding Beirne will be a stable of veteran infielders. Shortstop Amanda Daw, third baseman Whitney Lewis, second baseman Cassie Sassnet and first baseman Cameron Waters all return to a Panthers’ lineup that thrived with its stellar defensive play a season ago.
While the infield remains intact, the Lady Panthers must find replacements for catcher Casey Alligood and outfielders Lauren Rodriguez, Tiffany Jackson and Heather Ussery.
Freshman Jenna Payne has been tabbed as Alligood’s replacement behind the plate, while several other younger players, including Rachell Hollowell, Elizabeth Harris, Ashleigh Cornelius, Mariah Hawkins and Kelly Miller will be counted on to serve valuable roles for Northside.
We’ve got a lot of young girls who are going to play important roles. We’ve got a talented young group this season.”
One area where the Panthers hope to improve is at the plate. Only Beirne and Daw batted above .300 in 2008.