The PECI Panthers got off on the right foot from the mound and the batter’s box Friday afternoon.
The Panthers kicked off the 2023 Bay of Quinte Athletic Conference, taking both ends of a Nicholson/ Centennial double header.
In their season debut, PECI had a strong outing from Issac Krentz who fanned six Crusaders in an 11-2 romp.
At the plate, Nathan Steen mashed a two run double while outfielder Charlie Smith nearly went yard, one hopping a drive to the fence for a bases clearing triple.
In the afternoon game, Mitch Sills was masterful from the bump, no hitting the Chargers through four innings and striking out 12 of the 13 batters he faced.
Kaden Insley, who came on in relief in the first game to quell a Crusader uprising, was 2 for 2 in late game with a double and triple while Ben Smith was also 2-for-2 with a pair of doubles and walk.
PECI alum and former U.S. Collegiate player Kyle Gould is taking over for long time Panthers skipper Matt Ronan this season and said it was good for the locals to put forth a team effort this early in the season.
The school is typically one of the leaders in the B of Q and Gould said the late winter practices in the gym have paid off so far.
“We started practising a little while ago and the commitment and the communication from everyone has been impressive. They players have all made this team and season a top priority,” Gould said.
With a good minor baseball system in place in Prince Edward County, PECI is able to draw on athletes who have been instructed on how to play baseball the proper way.
“They are also all so coachable that it was made our job as a coaching staff really easy but something that definitely stood out is the depth that we have as a full roster,” Gould explained. “Whether it’s the older guys that we have or even the first years, I feel confident that I can plug-in whenever wherever and that that really just goes to show how much they’ve bought into joining this program and the collective goal we have as a group.”
While the offence will role and the Panthers won’t struggle too often to swing the heavy lumber, pitching is the key catalyst in determining the club’s destiny when it comes to a birth in the OFSAA tournament.
Gould recognizes this and is happy to see a number of arms in the PECI bullpen ready to take on important assignments.
“The teams with the deeper pitching staff tend to go longer in those single day tournaments like Bay of Quinte or COSSA so I’m very confident with the quality of arms we have. It’s still early but I do fully believe Krentz and Sills will continue to lead the way on the pitching staff. Both Isaac and Mitch are very keen learners and always put in extra work before and after practice so it came to no surprise that they had such good outings on Friday,” Gould added.
A standout who was able to carve out a junior college career in Erie, PA with the Erie Community College Kats and College of St. Joseph’s in Vermont, Gould has high hopes a current PECI Panther under his mentorship will chase their baseball dreams abroad.
“PECI and Prince Edward County Minor Baseball have produced a lot of good talents throughout the year especially, for such a small centre. I know earlier it was always tough for kids like myself or Chris Norman (Mississippi Valley State) or Andrew Dayton (Jefferson Community College) growing up to get that exposure and have an opportunity to get to that next level but it’s definitely not impossible and I think the more they dedicate themselves to the craft and understanding that with a lot of hard work and commitment they can go off and get an education or continue playing baseball at a high-level.
Gould said the sport of baseball has provided the opportunity to travel around the world, see far off places and learn much about the world.
“I want these kids to be able to experience that as well and I’m always open to help them out,” the skipper said. “I hope maybe some of them get to experience those things and I know a lot of them have what it takes. It really is just like anything, if you have the passion and work ethic it’s amazing how far this sport can take you.”