By Henry Molski, Sports Editor
February 20, 2013
As spring training begins for professional baseball in Florida and Arizona, the real deal has begun in the NCAA. The High Point Panthers men’s baseball team is already three games into the 2013 and they are picking up right where they left off in 2012
While 2012 didn’t end on an actual win, the Panther did manage to make a historic run in the Big South Conference Tournament when they became the first seven seed to ever knock off a number two when they took down Campbell and reached the semi-finals.
From a team that featured two-seniors for the better part of the season in 2012, the Panthers have ten on the roster in 2013 and hope to build up new young talent from there. Players such as Jared Avidon, Scott Glover, Jacob Newberry and Ryan Retz have all returned as captains on the team and graduate student, Adam Berry also joins the crew as a senior captain.
“We are extremely excited about the leadership within this team,” said head coach Craig Cozart in an interview with HPU Sports Information. “These five guys have distinguished themselves in a variety of ways. We expect them to play a vital role in what we believe will be a successful 2013 campaign.”
The campaign officially began on Feb. 15 when the Panthers took the field against Kansas State in The Citadel Memorial Challenge. After a weekend filled with baseball, the Panthers emerged as winners of two of three big non-conference games.
On Friday, Newberry took the mound for the Panthers as they faced Kansas State for the first time ever. Despite Willie Medina going 4-5 at the plate and scoring a run, the Panthers were not able to catch up to the Wildcats. Newberry was also strong for the Panthers as he threw 5-2/3 innings while allowing no runs on eight hits to go along with his five strikeouts.
After Friday’s loss, the Panthers did not look back for the rest of the weekend. They came out on Saturday with a completely different energy and were not fazed after falling behind early. They used a four-run rally in the sixth inning that included a Retz’s first home run of the season to pull ahead of George Mason. The Panthers went on to defeat the Patriots by a score of 8-6.
In a weekend full of firsts for the season, this was also the first time in program history that the Panthers had played George Mason. Panther fans should grow accustomed to seeing big name schools on the schedule this year as non-conference games will also include Tulane, William & Mary, Wake Forest, Duke and Virginia Tech.
Another big name in the college baseball scene is The Citadel; the tournaments host and the Panther’s opponent on Sunday. It was more of the same for the Panthers on Sunday. It took until the eighth inning, but the Panthers bats erupted to break a 1-1 tie and take a 6-1 lead that they would not relinquish. Avidon was on the mound and gave the Panthers a memorable pitching performance. Avidon went eight strong innings while only allowing two runs and recording the win. The Panthers beat the Bulldogs by a final score of 7-2.
The Panthers will return to High Point on Feb. 20 for their home opener against Charlotte. The High Point baseball team hosted the baseball Olympics on Monday to prepare fans for an exciting season. The event had a batting practice session, speed pitching, and wiffle ball games.
Look for a lot more fun on the baseball diamond with the Panthers this year as they make a charge to control the Big South and press for an appearance in the NCAA tournament in the summer.