After three weeks and several cancellations, the Panthers (3-6, 0-1 Dist. 4-6A) have been thrust into district play without much experience heading into their first home game Friday against Weatherford (6-5, 1-0).
“We’ve got a really young team,” Paschal head coach Darrell Preston said. “So we kind of struggled, and we were hoping to get 17 games in before we started district and were only able to get eight in.”
Paschal was scheduled to play in tournaments in Granbury and Burleson the first two weekends of the season. But thanks to the snow and ice that blanketed North Texas in late February and early March, the Granbury Tournament was cancelled.
The Panthers played just two games at the Burleson Tournament.
Preston said missing those games has affected the team’s ability to develop before district play.
“So when you’ve got a young team like that, it just takes some time to get out on the field and actually play the games and learn from them,” he said. “So we’re kind of a little bit behind. You’ve got a really talented group. But they’re just young.”
One area of the team that is very young is the pitching rotation. Preston said the team lost all of its pitchers from last season and is now having to break in younger arms.
Sophomore Austin Smith started Tuesday in the Panthers’ district opener, a 3-2 loss on the road to North Crowley. Junior Drew Medford, who also plays catcher, will take the hill for the Panthers Friday.
“As of right now, those are going to be our two main guys that are going to be alternating starts in district play for us,” Preston said. “They both pitch really well for us.”
Medford will face a Kangaroo team that scored an average of 6.75 runs per game in four wins at the Arlington Heights Tournament last weekend. The Panthers allowed an average of 6.2 runs per game in their losses during that same tournament. Preston said he has a lot of respect for the Weatherford program.
“They’re really well-coached,” he said. “They’re always solid year-in and year-out.”
Games between the Kangaroos are usually tightly contested. Preston said he expects the same thing this time around.
“I expect a low-scoring, well-pitched, good defensive game,” Preston said. “Those guys are going to play small ball. They’re going to play good defense, and they’re not going to beat themselves. So any opportunities we get, we’re going to have to take advantage of them.”
Matt Jennings is a sports reporter for The 109. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @MattAJennings.