“It’s huge,” Preston said. “Any time you can win and play well with a young group of guys, it helps build confidence.”
After a strange start to the year, the Panthers (5-6, 2-1 Dist. 4-6A) have reason for confidence as they’ve moved into a five-way tie for first place atop the district standings. They will try to extend their winning streak to three when they face winless Arlington Sam Houston (0-4, 0-3) Friday.
The Panthers defeated Weatherford at home 4-2 on Monday after the game was rescheduled due to rain Friday. They then went on the road the very next night to take down Arlington Lamar 3-2.
Preston said his team’s biggest improvement this week has been its approach at the plate. On Tuesday when they faced hard-throwing right-hander Shane Buechele, who also plays quarterback for Lamar and is committed to play football at Texas, the Panthers put up three runs. District power Arlington Martin was only able to score one against Buechele.
“It’s been a drastic improvement,” Preston said. “You know, the kids are buying into our offensive approach.”
“They’re going up there with a plan instead of just going up there and hitting,” he said. “They’re looking at the situation of the game and knowing what their job is.”
The Panthers’ hot bats will match up with a Texans team that’s given up at least 11 runs in every game this season. However, Preston said there are still tweaks his players will have to make.
“From what we’ve seen, they don’t have the velocity of the other arms we’ve seen,” Preston said of Sam Houston. “So it’s going to be big to be able to make that adjustment and let the ball travel, not try to go get it.”
Junior Drew Medford will be the starting pitcher for Paschal after getting the win Monday night against the Kangaroos. Preston will limit him to 20 to 25 pitches, however, and give sophomore Ben Ayala some work out of the bullpen.
A win would mean the Panthers would hold on to at least a share of first place, a much better position than they were in just a week ago when they were 0-1 in district play.
“With 11 games to go, we’re right there in the mix, battling with a young group of kids,” Preston said. “Which is awesome.”
Matt Jennings is the sports editor for The 109. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @MattAJennings.