Softball: Paradise seeks redemption – Lady Panthers set for start of district

By Reece Waddell | Published Saturday, March 3, 2018
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Kendall Candioto remembers the play like it was yesterday.

Needing a win against rival Boyd to keep their playoff hopes alive last year, Paradise and the Lady Jackets duked it out into extra innings. The bases were loaded, the score was tied and the winning run was 60 feet away.

A NEW CHAPTER – Paradise’s Maddi Terry catches a ball during practice. The Lady Panthers finished last season fifth in District 8-3A, narrowly missing out on the playoffs. Photo courtesy of Karin Essig

As Candioto recalled, her throw to second trickled into the outfield, allowing the winning run to cross the plate for the Lady Jackets.

The Lady Panthers finished fifth in District 8-3A, narrowly missing out on the postseason.

“I was pretty devastated because I knew as a pitcher, that game was in my hands,” Candioto said. “The last play was my fault. It was totally awful.”

Almost a year later, Candioto and the Lady Panthers are determined to turn the page and not let last season’s heartbreak define them.

“These kids are hungry,” said Paradise coach Karin Essig. “It’s more than making the playoffs. It’s being the best you can be. Not making the playoffs was not acceptable to them.”

Candioto is coming off a brilliant year in the circle, fanning 199 batters last season. Candioto picked up her first win this year against Randall, scattering seven hits over five innings. She struck out 11, allowing three runs.

Along with Candioto, Paradise has also gotten quality innings from Kailey Thomas early this year. Thomas pitched a shutout against Bridgeport, surrendering only two hits in a 10-0 rout. Thomas later pitched a complete game against Abilene Wylie, leading the Lady Panthers to a 9-7 victory.

“I have two pretty good pitchers, and I need [both of them] to be ready,” Essig sad. “When you have two to choose from, they should build on each other and make each other’s job easier.”

Offensively, Makenna Hudson is off to a hot start for Paradise in the clean-up spot. Hudson had a four-RBI day against Wylie and drove in the Lady Panthers’ only run against Salado.

“[Hudson] has been amazing,” Candioto said. “I know that my job is just to get on base and she’s going to hit me in.

“All of us can hit. We just put it in play and good stuff is going to happen.”

Paradise opens district play Tuesday at Jacksboro. The Lady Panthers played three games Friday in the Ponder Tournament.

Paradise’s first home game is Friday against Bowie.

As her team gears up for what she expects will be a tough district, Essig said the message to the Lady Panthers has been simple – own the moment.

“Everybody is going to have one,” Essig said. “When it’s your turn, step up to it. That’s what we talk about every day. Own what you do.”

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