MERRYVILLE, La. (KPLC) - As David Vince embarked on his first year at the helm of the Merryville softball team he knew he was stepping into a good situation. The Lady Panthers returned nearly all of their production from last season’s squad that advanced to the quarterfinal round.
“They only lost one or two players from that team so I knew coming in we had the potential to be very good it was just a matter of bringing the team together," Merryville head softball coach David Vince admitted.
So far in 2020, the team has responded. Before the spring sports season was put on hold due to the Coronavirus outbreak, Merryville was on a tear, winning ten straight to up its record to 12-1 on the year.
“The coaching staff already had the belief in what they could do and each time we won a game the more confidence they got,” said Vince of the Lady Panthers’ winning streak.
“Only losing one game this season has brought us together," Merryville sophomore pitcher Riley Dyson said. "That gave us a boost of confidence that we are this good and we can do this no matter what.”
Despite the success, the Lady Panthers aren’t a senior-laden bunch as multiple underclassmen have carried the load. Sophomore Riley Dyson was unquestionably the star to start the year as she’s crushed nearly every ball that’s come her way. She totaled a .681 average with 10 homers and 33 RBIs.
She was just as dominant in the circle as she posted a 12-1 record with a 1.92 ERA as the Lady Panthers' ace.
“When you know you’ve got a pitcher of her caliber on the mound, it elevates her teammates to want to play excellent defense,” Vince said of Dyson.
Though Dyson is a sophomore, this is her first time seeing action at the high school level. She missed her entire freshman season due to a torn meniscus.
“I was extremely down because my teammates were out here, they were working so hard and I love the game," Dyson said of missing time due to injury. "I wanted to be out here with them working hard and I couldn’t.”
“I think anytime you go through adversity you don’t take things for granted when you get an opportunity to come back,” said Vince. “I think it encouraged her to work harder.”
With the season on hold, Dyson is still perfecting her craft and remains optimistic that she and her team will have the chance to finish what they've started.
“I’m very hopeful," Dyson added. "I keep praying to God that this all passes over quick and that we can get back to doing what we love.”