Prairie Home baseball coach Trever Huth wants to keep it simple for the 2018 season.
With 18 players suited out for the upcoming season, nine of which are returning starters, Huth said his outlook for the season is simple. “I want to compete in every game and to play to the best of our abilities,” Huth said. “We are looking to improve on our fall season and take another step to competing at a high level, and looking to have a good shot at winning conference and districts.”
While finishing 5-7 in the fall, the Panthers still have some work to do to catch up with the conference’s elite, especially a team like Jamestown, who Huth considers to be the favorite in the Cooper County Activities Association.
“They return a lot of starters and upperclassmen that know the game well and play at a high level,” Huth said. “From there it seems like the conference is wide open. Bunceton is a solid team with kids that can play well and do some of the little things right. Higbee and Calvary Lutheran round out the rest of the conference with both teams being good in their own ways. Higbee has a couple kids that can throw the ball well and throw strikes, and Calvary has a really good coach and plays defense really well.”
With all nine starters returning for the 2018 season, Huth said the strengths of the team that the Panthers will rely on will be the pitching and defense. He said the Panthers will have several pitchers that can throw strikes consistently to get out. “Defensively, we will be pretty solid as well all around the diamond from the outfield to the infield,” Huth said.
Of course the Panthers are a long way from raising the trophy as the Class 1 state champions. Huth said hitting is going to be a weakness for the season.
“We need to lay off bad pitches and work on putting more balls in play,” Huth said. “If we can do that, we will be in a lot of ballgames. We just want to compete in every game the best we can. If we can do that, we will compete for the conference and district titles, which is our other goals.”
After the season opener at home on March 20th against the Higbee Tigers, Prairie Home will hit the road on Thursday, March 22nd against Slater starting at 5 p.m.
Huth said senior Creed Flood will be one of the main pitchers for the Panthers this spring. While returning from last fall, Huth said Flood throws the ball in the strike zone constantly and looks for him to get a lot of innings this year.
“Creed will also play the outfield and some third base,” Huth said.
As for the catcher’s position, Huth said it will come down to Billy Kellum and Blane Petsel. He said both work hard at the position and come to get better every day. “Both will also play infield and outfield when they are not catching,” Huth said.
As for the infield for Prairie Home, Huth said Alex Rhode will play first base, as he can put the ball in play and fields the position well. Sophomore Clayton Pethan, meanwhile, will bounce around between second, short and pitching this season. Huth said Pethan is an infielder with good tools at his position and will hit in the middle of the lineup for the Panthers.
On the left side of the infield, junior Blake Petsel will bounce around between short, second and pitching. Huth said Petsel is an athletic kid that knows the game well. “He throws strikes and will eat up some innings for us while battling at the top of the lineup,” Huth said.
As for third base, Huth said Mason Wells will see a lot of his time there. Huth said Wells has a good glove and instincts at the corner. “Mason will battle in the middle of the lineup and I look for him to have a good year at the plate and on the mound, too,” Huth said.
In the outfield, sophomore Kassen Lock will start in center for the Panthers. Huth said with Lock’s speed, he should be able to run down most balls hit to him. “He will pitch and bat at the top of the lineup and I look for him to be aggressive on the basepaths,” Huth said.
As for the left and right positions in the outfield, Huth said it  will come down to a couple of kids. He said John Fontana, Austin Small, Talon Benne, Gabe Turner and Anthony Davis will all see some time in the outfield and get a chance to start.
“Each kid plays hards and can catch the ball,” Huth said. “It will just come down to who can hit and run the bases the best. Talon will look to get a lot of time on the mound. He has two or three good pitchers that will get him through some games and eat up innings for us this season.”