Panthers' successful baseball season the result of many factors

Greg Ceilley  Review Sports Editor

A combination of strong pitching, good defense, a potent attack and aggressive baserunning have fueled the Plymouth Panthers’ outstanding baseball season thus far.

Add in mental sharpness and a team effort, and you have a pretty impressive package on the ball diamond. The Panthers, who have clinched the Eastern Wisconsin Conference title, were 15-0 in the EWC and 18-3 overall going into their game at Kewaskum Wednesday, June 26.

“We’ve set some goals and have been able to achieve them, and we have more goals. We’ve been real pleased,” said Panther head coach Butch Cain.

“We have a tight-knit group and good unification. We have a nice group of experienced players and young players.”

While the Panthers have very good pitching and hitting, their ability to put pressure on opposing defenses and their execution have also caught my eye. Stealing, taking extra bases and bunting have been key elements in the team’s success.

“We put pressure on the defense. We make defenses make quick decisions and we take advantage of opponents’ defensive mistakes,” Cain said.

The Panthers are always looking to stretch singles and doubles into doubles and triples, respectively, and have executed several suicide-squeeze bunts to score runs.

Cain said one of the team’s goals is to play each pitch and each game one at a time, and another goal is to stay mentally prepared.

“We’ve stayed focused,” he pointed out.

This ballclub does many of the little things that don’t show up in the box score such as moving runners over, being disciplined at the plate and hitting the cut-off.

The Panthers’ offense has been very productive up and down the batting order. PHS has an outstanding eight players who are hitting over .300, led by sophomore Zac Cain at a sizzling .465. The team batting average is a scorching .342.

“We’ve attacked the ball fairly well overall and show good discipline at the plate,” said coach Cain.

“We take what’s given to us [on pitches] and we spray the ball well. We’ve been very productive up and down the lineup and have a high on-base percentage.”

Plymouth’s pitching staff has been incredible – boasting a team ERA of 1.84. PHS has five regulars on the mound who have ERAs under 3.00, led by senior Ryan Schieble with an impressive 0.88.

“The pitching has been solid. We pitch spots and have really good control,” said the coach.

The Panthers have been very successful stealing bases with 66- for-73, a 90-percent success rate. Sophomore Tyler Willeford is first in steals with 15 out of 15 tries.

“Defensively, we have guys who can play multiple positions and that flexibility has been a key for us.”

Coach Cain said the team is still a work in process and can still improve which is a great mindset to have. The Panthers have used the right formula for success so far but aren’t about to rest on their laurels.

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