The last time the Panthers found themselves on a diamond was in the Florida sun on their annual spring break trip. We all know how that story goes, but this year, the baseball team will look to compete through and have another run in contention for the conference title in May.
The season officially hit the ground running on Saturday, January 18th. Because of situational implications from the COVID pandemic, the NCAA has granted extra days of practice to schools, and Head Coach Lynn Carlson made sure to take hold of this opportunity to get better. It was a long first week for the team because the coaches wanted to make sure everyone had seen the sunrise at least once in their lives. With two-a-days all week, this team is hoping to shake the rust off early and start the season hot. Assistant Coach Caleb Selk believes firmly in the idea that the team must take it one day at a time. “Our focus should be ‘ How do I get better today than I was yesterday?’”.
A couple of things will look a little different for this team to keep the season smooth sailing. Above all, the team will be complying with the institution and NCAA policies by testing for COVID-19 twice a week. Failure to comply with this will immediately put a player out of practice until they test. While this is not the situation Selk wanted to be in, he believes the team will work together to make things happen. As a coach in these new and unprecedented times, Selk plans to emphasize getting better every day through his own mind. “This year, it can be easy to let the ‘what ifs’ and negativity of what could happen into our minds, but we must be obsessed with the moment we are in… I’ll continue to work and lead that way”.
The schedule format for the season will look unique to this year as well. Due to some teams in the SLIAC opting out of the season, the SLIAC, like many conferences around the nation, decided that this season should be mostly conference-only play. Currently, all teams are scheduled to play each other 4 times. Teams will play two nine-inning games on Fridays and then a seven-inning as well as an additional nine-inning game on Saturdays. This schedule will look to decrease travel between all teams and hopefully keep the pandemic at bay for the season.
In addition to the other changs of this season, the Panthers will also have to do some rebuilding in their program. Coming into the previous season, the team was optimistic with their lineup full of seniors, but this squad looks very different now. With seventeen new players on the roster this year, Greenville’s first goal will be to find their identity with each other and see what will work with a completely new look group. Among other things, Coach Selk compared the team’s dynamics with a bible verse, saying that “…as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Prov. 27:17). He believes that the team will find individual success through each other and that this will truly be a team effort. As they prepare to kick off their 2021 season, the Panthers will look to build their chemistry and sharpen one another in order to find success on the field.