Panthers ready to roll
Allen Moody | Highlands TodayAVON PARK - After facing each other in practice for months, the South Florida State College Panthers were ready to start seeing some people in different colored uniforms.
Published: January 28, 2013
Published: January 28, 2013
After getting some of the bugs out in the Kick-Off Classic in Clearwater on Saturday, the Panthers will now get down to business, as the team begins its longest home stand of the season with 10 straight games at Panther Field beginning Tuesday.
Panthers coach Carlos Falla said he likes what he has seen so far from the squad.
"They're working hard," he said. "It's a very focused, very hard-working group, so we're pretty excited about them."
The Panthers will have plenty of new faces on the team this year, with just six sophomores and nine freshmen on the roster.
"We're going to be running a lot of freshman on the field this year," he said. "We have a returning shortstop and second baseman and centerfielder, right-fielder and one returning pitcher."
Lexi Belardi and Taylor Upchurch give the Panthers a solid nucleus in the infield, while Amanda Byers, Kayla Dennison, Courtney Diamond all saw playing time in the field a year ago. Upchurch was an honorable mention All-Suncoast Conference selection last year.
Returning starter Julia Deyoe led the Panthers in wins and innings pitched last season and is one of four pitchers — Gennifer Raulerson, Alexis Adams and Cassandra Grant are the others — who are likely to see time in the circle.
"All my pitchers are really good location pitchers who can move the ball around," Falla said. "They're all four different style pitchers.
"All our pitchers have really good change-ups this year. We don't have what I would call a power pitcher, 64 or 65 mile-per-hour kids, but we do have kids in that 59 to 62 range who can bump it up when they need to."
Falla believes that defense is going to be a strength of the team once they get a few of the early season jitters out of the way.
"Our defense should be strong," he said. "We're going to make some freshman mistakes here and there, but hopefully we can grow with it. Everybody is pretty much a utility player, so we can move them to different positions."
Falla believes the key to a good season is going to be the pitching, just as it is every year.
"If we can keep our pitching together and keep healthy, we should be all right," Falla said. "We have some experience up the middle and a lot of different combinations we can use."
State College of Florida and St. Petersburg battled it out all season for the conference title last year and the Manatees edged St. Petersburg by one game, finishing with a 13-3 record. State College of Florida will be tough once again and is ranked No. 4 in the nation in the preseason polls.
The Panthers missed post-season play by one game a year ago and Falla said if they continue to work hard he'll be anxious to see what happens.
"We've been preaching to them to play better each and every day," Falla said. "We want them to do everything in their power every single day to get better, and so far, so good. I have no complaints with them."
The Panthers host Lake Sumter Community College in a doubleheader Tuesday and play host to College of Central Florida for a pair of games Thursday. Both doubleheaders are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m.
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