New year, new field, new roster

Panther baseball prepares to claim state

Junior+Mitchell+Sutton+fields+a+ball+at+shortstop.+The+varsity+boys+play+their+first+home+game+March+2+against+Morrow.

Shelby Foster

Junior Mitchell Sutton fields a ball at shortstop. The varsity boys play their first home game March 2 against Morrow.

Morgan Evans, Sports Editor

With tryouts ending a few weeks ago, the 2017 varsity baseball season is underway. Since last season, the team lost ten seniors and look toward a new roster to kick start the year. The Panthers will try to overcome last season’s record of 22-6, and 9-3 in the region.

Although there have been a few changes with the roster, the new field is what head coach Brent Moseley is looking forward to most this season.

We’ve had more practices this year than we’ve had in two years [combined].”

— head coach Brent Moseley

Last season the Panther baseball field was so flooded due to extraneous precipitation, Moseley did not know whether he would be forced to relocate home games. Luckily, the field stayed fairly decent to play on, despite the slipping and sliding in the outfield.

During the offseason, the field went under reconstruction to solve its drainage problem as well as lower the manhole cover in right field. During the reconstruction, the infield was moved back about ten feet.

“It’s been really good,” Moseley said. “The biggest thing is that it’s been warm, it’s been dry, and the field has drained remarkably well. We’ve been able to practice on the field everyday so far. We’ve had more practices this year than we’ve had in two years [combined].”

This year’s seniors will fill most of the roster and lead the team. Moseley looks toward returning seniors Jake Arnold, Kyle Evert, Tyler Courtney, and Will Evans for leadership. Senior Drew Pepper was added to the roster this year and will be top starting pitcher, as well as seniors Arnold, Jack Moore, and Chance Amell.

“We’ve got a really good pitching staff,” Moseley said. “I think the strength [this season] is the pitching.”

Shelby Foster
Junior Hayes Heinecke reaches toward the infield to get the force out at first base. The Panthers played their first scrimmage on Feb. 10 against East Coweta.

The Panther pitching staff will have little room for error against the new region realignment. Moseley believes the biggest region competition will be against Whitewater and McIntosh.

“I’m confident we’ll make it to the state playoffs,” Moseley said. “I just don’t know what seed we’ll be.”

The biggest question Moseley faces this season is if the hitting is enough to make it past the first round of state playoffs. The biggest weakness the Panthers face this season are their continued offensive struggles. Although their players have improved their hitting this offseason, it still needs work to match up to the pitching.

The past two seasons, the Panthers’ final series was the first round of state playoffs. Moseley looks forward to making it past the first round this season, despite the tougher schedule.

“Obviously we want to get to the state playoffs and see how far we can go,” Moseley said. “Instead of worrying about where we are, [we need to] just try to be the best team, and they need to players they can be each day, and I just think the rest will take care of itself.”

Moseley looks to challenge the boys with a tougher schedule, including a tournament at Parkview where they will compete against eight of the best teams in the state.

Friday night the Panthers traveled to East Coweta to scrimmage the Indians. The scrimmage was supposed to be scheduled at home, but since there was a basketball tournament, Moseley moved the game to East Coweta. Despite the location change, the Panthers defeated the Indians 6-4.

The Panthers’ first regular season game is scheduled for Feb. 27 at Pike County with first pitch at 5:55 p.m. The boys do not play a home game until March 2 against Morrow.