Panthers find comfort zone

Published 9:59 am Friday, February 18, 2011

By Stephen Dawkins | Assistant Managing Editor

Perhaps for the first time in Coach Jason Easterling’s tenure, the Jemison Panthers are completely comfortable both with him and each other.

The baseball team enjoyed success in Easterling’s first three seasons but lost many seniors after the 2009 season.

Three more players—centerfielder Jacob Chapman, second baseman Donny Eslinger and pitcher Patrick Sims—were lost off last year’s team, but the 2011 squad features a group of seniors with a long history together.

“This group has been together longer (than last year’s seniors),” Coach Jason Easterling said. “You can tell that just the way they talk to one another.”

The familiarity with each other and with Easterling makes practices more productive, such as the Panthers spending all week conducting live scrimmages instead of going through drills working on fundamental techniques.

“I think they get more out of going live, and I can tell more about how they’re going to play in games,” Easterling said.

Scott Clements, Kyle Dennis and Zak Kaylor are this year’s experienced seniors. They’re joined by another senior, Isa Bentley, who hasn’t played previously but could help the team by providing a baserunning threat.

Clements is a top-of-the-order type hitter who could benefit from having Bentley pinch run.

Dennis and Kaylor, meanwhile, will be two of the team’s primary pitchers, along with Alex Campbell, Chase McCary and Cruz Martinez.

Jacob Bass will likely take over for Eslinger at second base and for Chapman at the top of the lineup.

Bass’ move opens up an outfield spot for Brian Porter, a junior who played on the junior varsity team last year and will be the only new face this season on the varsity squad.

Jemison’s first games will be Monday. The Panthers will host Jefferson Davis at 1 p.m. Monday and then Calera at 6 p.m. The two visiting teams will play each other in between Jemison’s two games.