The defending 5A State Champion Pascagoula Panthers ready for playoffs

Pascagoula coach Richie Tillman had his team out on the baseball practice field, fine tuning their overall play.

He had his pitchers learning their pick off moves with runners on base and others were inside the indoor batting cages.

The Panthers locked up the Region 7-5A title last week and are getting ready for the state playoffs set for next week.

Tillman says there's really no comparison from the 2012 5A State Championship team and the 2013 edition of the Panthers.

Tillman said, "last year's team could really swing the bats really well." He added, "This group relies more on defense and pitching. "Our pitching is similar to last year. Our defense has allowed only one error in the last five district games. I'm as pleased about that as anything."

Senior Andrew Crane has stepped up on the mound, delivering 7 wins, one loss, an impressive 0.80 earned run average with 66 strikeouts. Not bad for someone who was cut while trying out for the baseball team as a sophomore and decided to skip baseball his junior season.

Crane said, "I thought about coming out but I had tennis in my back pocket. I was playing tennis and doing really well with that, so I stuck with that and didn't tryout for baseball." Throughout soccer season I hurt my ankle really bad and I missed baseball tryouts again.

"I talked to coach Tillman and he knew about my injury, he knew about everything that happened in soccer and he gave me the opportunity to tryout again."

Crane also carries a big stick at the plate. Last week he belted a grand slam home run leading the Panthers both on the mound and at the plate in a 4-nothing win over East Central to clinch the Region 7-5A title.

Junior Slater McCarty leads Pascagoula with a .448 batting average and has scored 21 runs.

Senior Tracy Hadley is batting .370 with 11 RBI's and one home run.

Senior Adam Smith is batting .368 with a team leading 18 RBI's.

And Justin Stanford, another senior, carries a .340 batting average... helping the Panthers vie for another 5A State Championship.

Tillman also singled out senior pitcher Allen Cowart who carries 0.71 earned run average.  The Panthers travel to Gautier Tuesday night at seven.

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