Lady Lions hope to build on success from a season ago

Published 6:21 pm Wednesday, March 27, 2024

By John Henson

Contributing Sports Writer

The Pineville Lady Lions made history in 2023.

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The goal in 2024 is trying to find a way to repeat, or perhaps even exceed, their achievements from a year ago.

“Last year was a year of firsts,” said Robbie Partin, who stepped down as coach earlier in the week. “We beat Middlesboro for the first time last year, then we won our first district title in about 10 years and won the first game in the regional tournament in our history. Our goal this year is to win the All ‘A’ regional, win another district and make a deeper run in the regional.”

One big reason that Partin believes a repeat is possible is the return of star pitcher Rachel Howard for her sophomore season. Howard posted a 12-8 mark last year with a 2.66 earned run average and 275 strikeouts in 137 innings.

“This game is about pitching. If you don’t have a pitcher, you’ll have a long night. It’s a big deal to have a good pitcher. You can win games like that against better teams,” Partin said. “She had 275 strikeouts last year and has almost 1,000 in three years. She has put in the work. A lot of people think they want to be like Rachel, but her and her dad are working all year long. She is the real deal.”

The Lady Lions also return their top six hitters from a year ago, led by junior shortstop Baleigh Bargo-Vaughn, who hit .479 with 34 hits, 24 RBI and 11 doubles.

“She’s a smart player with a good bat. She scored the winning run in the district finals against Lynn Camp,” Partin said.

Junior catcher Addison Slone hit .440 with 33 hits, 22 RBI, 12 doubles and two homers.

“Not many people can catch Rachel, but she does a great job. She’s also got some power with the bat,” Partin said.

Rayanna Maiden, a freshman, plays center and is the leadoff hitter where she hit .478 last year with 26 steals in 28 attempts.

“She’s very fast and is a smart base runner,” Partin said. “She also has a heck of an arm.”

Mckenzie Laws, a junior, returns at second base after hitting .283 last year with 17 hits and 10 stolen bases in 10 attempts.

“She’s a good athlete and covers a lot of ground,” Partin said.

New starters this year for the Lady Lions include Isabella Adams at third base, Kamryn Adams at first base and Madison Johnson in the outfield.