The Prairie Home Panthers baseball team has one agenda for the 2019 season.
With 15 players suited out for the upcoming season, 10 of which are returning letterwinners, head coach Trever Huth said the outlook for the season is to be constant and compete every game they play.
The Panthers were definitely competitive in 2018 while finishing 7-7 in the fall and 7-6 in the spring.
However for Prairie Home to be successful again this season, Huth said the pitching really has to pick it up from last fall. “If we can do that, we will win a lot more ballgames this spring,” Huth said. “Playing defense will be key for us this spring also. Keeping the errors to a minimum with the improved pitching will help keep baserunners off the paths and keep us hitting more. With that I believe our hitting will carry us this season as it has done in the past.”
But will it be enough to get past preseason favorite Jamestown in the CCAA conference? Huth said the Eagles are the favorite but very beatable. From there, he said  Prairie Home, Bunceton and Calvary Lutheran-who all match up well against each other.
“Bunceton is a great hitting team that if we can get on their pitchers and play defense, we will be in a good position to win at the end of the game,” Huth said. “Calvary Lutheran has a pretty good team as well that hits and pitches the ball well. Playing a clean game and making sure we don’t make very many mistakes will help us beat them. But truly I think the conference is open this year. All it takes is a couple good game in conference play and you will find yourself sitting at the top.”
As for the strengths and weaknesses of the team this spring, Huth said hitting will be the main strength. He said a couple of upperclassmen will lead the lineup that is very competitive and will give good at bats every time they step up to the plate.
“With that our defense will come into play by keeping the ball in front and making the routine plays,” Huth said. “Third will have to be our pitching that will have to pick it up this spring. If we compete on the mound every game then it will all come into place for us. As for the weakness, pitching will have to improve for us in order to be really successful this spring.”
The Panthers also have team goals for the season in that they want to win the conference and districts. But the ones that mean a lot to Prairie Home, Huth said, are competing on every play and not giving up on anything. “We play hard until the game is over and leave it all out there on the field,” Huth said.
Prairie Home will find out soon enough if they are pretenders or contenders. With the season opening on Tuesday, March 19 at Sturgeon, Huth said sophomore Tallon Benne will do a lot of the pitching for the Panthers this season. Although Benne accounted for only 6 2/3 innings last fall, Huth said the lefty works hard and will throw strikes in the zone to get batters out.
As for the infield, sophomore Blaine Petsel returns after catcher  after hitting .293 in the fall with 12 hits in 41 at bats. Huth said Petsel works hard back behind the plate for his pitchers and will be an important hitter for the Panthers around the middle of the lineup.
At first base, junior Alex Rhodes also returns after hitting .258 with eight hits in 31 at bats for the Panthers. Huth said Rhode is a kid that works hard every day on getting better and wanting to make his teammates better. “Alex will also be an important part in the lineup that will hopefully bring his bat around from last fall,” Huth said.
Huth said sophomore Ty Stidham will also see some time at first base along with the DH spot and pitching.
At second, Huth said a battle is brewing between sophomore Colton Searles and freshman Oliver Lock. Huth said both field the ball pretty well but it will just come down to who is going to hit the ball better come game time.
On the left side of the infield, Huth has senior Blake Petsel and junior Clayton Pethan sharing time at that position throughout the season. Petsel led the team in hitting last fall with a .524 clip with 22 hits in 42 at bats with a team-leading two home runs and 31 runs scored. Petsel also stole 19 bases for the team lead. As for Pethan, he batted .409 in the fall with 18 hits in 44 at bats.
Huth said Petsel will lead off and do a lot of pitching for the Panthers this season as well while Pethan will be a middle of the order bat that is very athletic and will carry some of the lead pitching this season as well.
At third base, junior Mason Wells returns after hitting .523 in the fall with a team-leading 23 hits in 44 at bats. Wells also led the Panthers with 17 singles and 27 RBIs for the season.
Huth said Wells will handle this position well. “He knows the game well and will bat clean up for us this spring,” Huth said.
As for the outfield, Huth said sophomore John Fontanna looks to be the guy this spring in left. Huth said Fontanna will catch most anything hit his way and has a good arm from the outfield. Fontanna also proved that he could hit after finishing with a .462 clip in the fall with 18 hits in 39 at bats.
Junior Kassen Lock, meanwhile, will return in center after batting .400 with 18 hits in 45 at bats with the team’s only triple last fall. Huth said Lock is a very smart kid that is a competitor. “Kassen will give us tough at bats and will catch the ball in center,” Huth said. “From there, right field comes down to who ever will field the ball and hit the ball best. Payton Pitts started for us there last year and looks to be the one to beat out. Austin Small, Tim Stewart and Logan Fairchild will round out the guys for us this year. I look for each of them to fill in when needed and have a couple pinch runners on the bench for when they are needed.”