Consistency is the word around the Prairie Home Panthers baseball team this fall.
With 16 suited out for the 2018 season, seven of which are returning starters from the spring, head coach Trever Huth the team is going to be young but that the junior class is still a pretty good size.
“The outlook is to be consistent, compete and win games,” Huth said. “I think our fielding and hitting will be find this fall. We have seven starters back and they all got way better throughout the season last spring. As for our fielding, we have an older infield this year. They are all smart and have good gloves.”
With so much experience back from the spring, Huth still sees a few rough edges such as the pitching staff.
“We don’t have the go out there and win me a ballgame type pitcher,” Huth said. “There is going to have to be a lot of guys who will have to step up and throw more this year.”
While the pitching will be a work in progress, Huth said he could have anywhere from seven to eight pitchers throwing this fall.
However of the seven wins last spring, five came from then senior Creed Flood. Blake Petsel and Clayton Pethan had the other two wins for the Panthers.
Huth said right now Petsel is the No. 1 pitcher for Prairie Home.
“He has the most experienced,” Huth said of Petsel. “He will throw strikes and will work the ball around the zone. After Blake, I will probably have a pitcher by committee. Talon Benne, Ty Stidham, Clayton Pethan, Mason Wells, Kassen Lock, Oliver Lock and Blane Petsel could all throw some for me. We have a lot to learn but that’s what the fall season is for. They will get their chance.”
If the pitching holds true with Blake Petsel as the starter, Huth will have no choice but to put sophomore Blane Petsel behind the plate. After all, Petsel returns at that position after hitting .289 in the spring with 11 hits in 38 at-bats with 10 singles, one double and 11 RBIs.
“Blane will do the bulk of the catching,” Huth said. “He calls a good game and blocks the ball well. After that I would say Colton Searles will probably be the backup.”
On the infield, junior Alex Rhode returns at first base for Prairie Home.
Huth said Rhode is a good fielder and knows out to play the position. Sophomore Ty Stidham could also see some playing time at first, Huth said.
At second base, junior Clayton Pethan returns after hitting .385 in the spring with a team leading 15 hits, 12 singles, one home run and 13 runs scored.
“Clayton is a great fielder,” Huth said. “He will hit in the middle of the lineup. Oliver Lock will probably back him up if Clayton switches over to shortstop.”
On the left side of the infield, Huth said Blake Petsel or Pethan will see action over there. He said both players are excellent fielders up the middle and knows the position well.
As for third base, junior Mason Wells will return for the Panthers after hitting .345 with 10 hits in 29 at bats with seven singles, three doubles and nine RBIs.
Huth said Wells is a max effort player. “Mason knows the game and is an excellent batter at the plate,” Huth said. “As for the infield as a whole, I think we will be pretty solid with the returning players.”
In the outfield, junior Kassen Lock will return for the Panthers in center field after hitting .270 in the spring with 10 hits in 37 at bats with nine single, one double and seven RBIs.
Huth said Lock is a smart player and will catch about anything hit to him. “Kassen will hit at the top of the order,” Huth said. “He gets on base a lot so we want him at the top in the lineup.”
Huth said sophomore John Fontana will get the starting nod in left this fall. After playing right field in the spring, Fontana played in only four games before he got hurt.
“John is very athletic,” Huth said. “He can get to the ball and will probably hit towards the bottom of the order.”
As for the right field position, Huth said right now it’s a toss up between seniors Austin Small and Gabe Turner and sophomores Ty Stidham and Talon Benne.
Huth said the player in right will come down to who can catch the ball and hit the best.
“I think we will be alright as long as we hit our cutoffs and keep the ball in front of us,” Huth said of the outfield.