Softball Panthers ready to roar

Published 8:17 pm Tuesday, March 7, 2023

The year after a deep post-season run, some programs are in rebuilding mode. That’s not the case at Northside, where the softball program is reloading rather than starting over.

The Panthers lost to eventual East champion Bear Grass in the fourth round last spring to cap a 16-8 season. Only one senior, Paige Sawyer, graduated and only one senior, Hannah Black, returns. An experienced group of juniors and sophomores make up the rest of the roster along with a few freshmen.

Kevan Rabat (Ray-bat) takes over the head coaching duties from Michelle Leathers, who is taking the spring off after coaching volleyball and basketball.

Rabat moved to Eastern North Carolina about this time last year after coaching high school baseball and softball near Frederick, Md for several years.

“I’m looking forward to being a part of Northside athletics and I’m glad my assistants (Rodney Braddy and Amelia Woolard) are coming back. They’ve been a big help so far and the girls have been great. We’re still getting to know each other, but this is a talented team.”

Juniors Bella Boykin and Jaden Clark for an effective pitching duo with sophomore Londyn Keech in reserve. The trio combined for a no-hitter in the opening day 24-0 rout of Tarboro last week. Clark pitched most of the innings last year after Boykin broke a finger sliding into third base early in the season at Washington.

Sophomore Samantha Braddy will handle the catching duties with Jorden Clark at third and Emaleigh Cherry at shortstop with other positions depending on who is pitching.

Black anchors the outfield in center and Rabat expects his senior to have a big season.

“She hits the ball hard, has the quickness to cover center field well and leads by example,” Rabat said. “These girls have known each other for a long time and our chemistry is very good. The girls did a good job adjusting to slower pitching in the Tarboro game, which bodes well. They’ve been hitting off each other all spring during practice, so we’re in a good place to start the season.”

Northside’s 8-2 Coastal Plains Conference record was a game behind 2A East Carteret last year. Pamlico County traditionally provides a stern test and Southside is much improved over last year.

“I’m not familiar with the conference at all, but the girls are” Rabat said. “We’ll be ready to play no matter the opponent.”

The Panthers host Washington Monday at 5 p.m., then meet the Pack on their field March 29.