After two consecutive years of just one senior on the roster, the Litchfield High School softball team should finally have some experience on the field next season.
This year's Lady Panthers went 5-18 on the season, one more win than they posted in 2018. Two of those wins came in conference play, against Greenville and Roxana, while the other three were against Taylorville, Nokomis and Lincolnwood.
While Litchfield had just one senior this season, she will be tough to replace. After earning a first team all-conference spot in the infield last year, Lizzy Luttrell made the move to catcher for the Panthers in 2019.
Despite the new position, Luttrell's athleticism and versatility made her a valuable asset behind the plate as she committed just three errors on the season.
At the plate, Luttrell had another big year, batting .329 with 13 runs scored, five doubles and 12 RBIs, which would earn her a spot on the all-conference third team in the utility role.
Coach Jessica Ball will turn in part to this year's junior class to replace Luttrell's production.
Both Emily Senjan and Mallory Beechler joined Luttrell on the all-conference team and played in all 23 games for the Lady Panthers.
Senjan earned a third team pitching nod and was solid with a 3.47 ERA and 128 strikeouts. As good as she was on the mound, Senjan was even better at the plate as she batted .419 with 22 runs scored, six doubles, five triples and five home runs, giving her more extra-base hits (16) than singles (15). She also only struck out four times in 74 at-bats and led the team in walks with 11.
Beechler was a second team pick in the outfield and batted .270 with a team-high 13 runs batted in. She also was amongst the leaders in runs (16), hits (20) and walks (7).
Like her classmates, Carly Boden also played in 23 games for the Panthers and drove in 12 runs this season. She was solid at first base defensively, too, and should make a bigger impact next year as a senior.
The same can be said for Trisha Seipp, who missed time early in the season. Once Seipp got back on the field, she batted .273 with six runs and five RBIs in 44 at-bats, showing glimpses of the form that earned her an all-conference nod in 2018.
Sophomore Bri Jeffers would also play in all 23 games and batted .230 in her first full year as a starter. She and Kate Komor, Litchfield's second pitcher and a threat on the base paths, could see their production increase next year, along with sophomore Cara Pence, who batted .184 this season.
Rounding out the 2019 Lady Panthers were three freshmen. Ashley Hickerson played in all 23 games and showed some pop in her bat with four doubles and a home run against Hillsboro. Mackenzie Emerson gave Litchfield fans some glimpses of something special at second base, a position she got better at defensively every game. Taylor Brakenhoff would bat .125 in five games for the varsity squad, but could play a bigger role next year.
Next year will be a key one for the Lady Panthers, who will be looking to snap their two year skid of losing seasons. Lack of experience won't be an issue next year, but only time will tell how big of strides Litchfield takes in turning that knowledge into production.