~ by Trevor Phipps ~
Instead of enjoying spring break like most other Woodland Park RE-2 students, the Panther boy’s baseball team spent their time away from class playing ball in the Arizona sunshine, and encountering some of the top teams in the nation.
After playing their first few games on the road in Colorado Springs before the break, the boys went on to play highly touted tournaments against high school baseball teams from across the country.
And this week, the team jumps right into playing their first conference games.
So far this season, the boys have literally been playing out of their league. According to the team’s veteran coach Neil Levy, most teams that the Panthers have played thus far have been more competitive due to the fact that they have players that compete more often in other club leagues. This year, the Woodland Park team does not have any players that participate in high school off-season play.
To make matters more difficult, according to Levy, Mother Nature has created major challenges for the team this year. Due to the recent snow and cold weather, the Panthers have not yet been able to practice on their field. “The guys have played seven games without being able to practice outdoors,” the team’s coach said.
The coach did say that the team did learn a lot and improve their skills while they were in Arizona.
And during their stint to sunny Arizona, the team was able to practice on an actual baseball field for the first time all season. Levy said this helped the players tremendously.
He stated that even though the boys didn’t win a single game during the trip, they learned a lot and received much-needed play and practice time while going up against much more competitive teams from across the country.
To start off their week of out-of-state play, the boys played Thunderbird High School from Phoenix in Arizona on March 25 and lost 13-3. Then, the very next day the Panthers got shut out 9-0 by Carlsbad High School, a team from New Mexico.
Last Wednesday, the boys played another team from Phoenix, Greenway High School, and they were able to hang in a little better and score some runs, but they still lost 10-6. Last Thursday during the last game of their out-of-state stint, the boys played Saint Viator High School from Arlington Heights, Illinois and put the most runs on the board that they have all season. Still, they fell short by a 12-8 mark.
Even though the boys failed to win games on their annual spring break trip, their coach is still optimistic about the rest of the season. “Our goal is to win the conference championship and go on to play in the state tournament,” Levy said. “We have a great group of kids. They get along with each other great and they all work really hard. They are ready to continue to work hard and reach our team goal.”
Luckily for the Panthers, most of the other teams in their conference seem too have been struggling in playing competitive teams out of their league. So far, there are only two teams in the Panthers’ league that currently have winning overall records. The TCA Titans are barely sitting over .500 with a 3-2 record and are currently second in the league. The Canon City Tigers, meanwhile, do look a little tough this year as they sit in first place with a 5-3 record before playing any conference games.
Levy did say that the team could improve their play all across the field. He said that they could get better with their pitching, defense, and batting skills. “We must play our best during every single game,” the coach stated.