Panthers have look of champion

by Greg Ceilley of The Review staff

PLYMOUTH – The Plymouth Panthers have the making of an Eastern Wisconsin Conference baseball champion this season, as evidenced by its terrific start.

PHS, which leads the EWC at 8-0 (11-2 overall) heading into its game versus Campbellsport Thursday, June 13, has a good combination of experience, solid pitching and hitting, sound defense and fast, aggressive baserunning.

The Panthers, who return four All-EWC players among 10 letter winners, are looking to build on last year’s successful campaign. The 2012 ballclub won a regional title, placed third in the EWC with a 14-4 record and was 22-8 overall. PHS lost to EWC arch-rival Sheboygan Falls in the sectional semifinals.

“Plymouth has pitching depth with as many as 10 players who will be ready to take the hill this season,” said Panther head coach Butch Cain who enters his 10th season at the helm.

“Plymouth is versatile with all of its players ready to play three or four positions during the year. Plymouth runs well and has many guys who hit for average.

“We have a good understanding of our role in the batter’s box and will put the ball in play at a consistent pace,” Cain said.

The Panthers’ allleague players back are sophomore first baseman Zac Cain and shortstop Clay Henning who were first-team picks last season; sophomore outfielder Tyler Willeford, second team; and junior catcher Luke Held who was honorable mention.

Willeford was the Panthers’ top batter last year with a .345 average, followed by Held and Cain at .337 each. Held ranked second in RBIs with 15.

Held paced PHS in ERA last year with an excellent 2.19 and is contributing to the pitching staff again this year. Held and senior pitcher Matt Rhude were tied for third on the squad in wins a year ago with three apiece.

“We are optimistic that our returning starters and letter winners will do what they can to make us a better team in every aspect of the game this season,” said coach Cain.

“We believe that each of our team members are more equipped with a better understanding of their role on our squad. We look forward to seeing the hard work from the off-season and open gyms paying dividends for us during the grueling two-month season.”

The Panthers’ deep pitching staff has been crucial to their strong start because they have a condensed schedule in which several games are played each week.

“Team health will be key for our success as well this season as we don’t want to lose any games due to injuries. Our continued growth will be an instrumental part of the overall 2013 season,” the coach said.

Coach Cain thinks Kewaskum and Sheboygan Falls are the teams to beat in the EWC. Kewaskum is the defending champion and Falls was second in 2012 along with being a state qualifier.

“Our goals will be to win the most pitches we can in every game. We are again trying to win as many of the close games as we can while trying to make a run for the EWC championship,” he said.

June 13 – Campbellsport, here
June 14 – Sheboygan Falls, here
June 17 – Kewaskum, here
June 18 – @ Two Rivers
June 20 – @ New Holstein
June 21 – @ Kiel (2)
June 22 – Cedarburg, here
June 25 – @ Campbellsport
June 26 – @ Kewaskum
June 29 – Whitefish Bay, here
July 1 – @ Elkhart Lake
July 3 – New Holstein, here
July 8 – Sheboygan Legion, here
July 9 – Regional, TBA
Seniors – *Ryan Schieble (OF-P), *Eric Leinen (IF-P)
and *Matt Rhude (OF-P).
Juniors – *Clay Henning (SS-P), *Luke Held (C-IF-P),
*Luke Hojnacki (OF-IF), *Jake Richards (IF-P) and *Justin
Picard (OF).
Sophomores – Cole Karczewski (IF-OF-C), *Tyler Willeford (OF-IF-C-P), Drew Schweiger (OF-IF-P), Matt Olig (IFC P) and *Zac Cain (IF-C-P).
___*_ =_ _ R_e_tu__rn_i_n_g_ _ le_t_te_r_ w__in_n__e_r.______________________

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