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Jan 17, 2018

Panhandle State Communications

Baseball Fever Builds for 2018 Spring Season

Goodwell, Okla.—2018 will bring about a new spring season for Panhandle Baseball as well as a new coaching staff to cultivate it. Head Coach Jason LaRocque, an eight-year industry veteran, will be joined by pitching coach Brandon Mercer, as well as familiar Panhandle State University face and new recruiting coordinator, Keith Schulz Jr.

Proving an early uphill battle in the face of change, the baseball roster decreased by 28 before the 2017-18 school year even began. Not to be deterred, LaRocque and Schulz endeavored to fill the holes and ended up gaining 42 new recruits before August and added another 12 new faces at the semester break. “It was a difficult task but the staff and myself worked hard, not just finding guys but finding the right guys,” says LaRocque.

Behind the scenes, both the staff and the team has undertaken a long road of groundwork, not only physically preparing for the season, but mentally as well. “A lot of preparation has gone into finding a new identity as a program as well as establishing a culture and a new era of Panhandle baseball,” divulges LaRocque, “everyone has been putting forth a great deal of effort on all fronts.” Through all their strife, LaRocque expresses his appreciation for his staff and his team taking to the new program so quickly and so well, especially as this is the veteran coach’s first year with Panhandle State University. If their pre-season efforts equate their game-time performance, campus and community fans could bear witness to a new level of Panhandle Baseball.

“I am excited about every single player we have on our roster,” says LaRocque, “I’m motivated by how they have developed individually and also together as a team. Our energy is good, we are talented and our guys have the makeup to be great, we just have to find a way to keep a consistency playing to our strengths. The real test will be how we come together as a team and how well we can execute.”

An apt and assiduous addition to the coaching staff, new Pitching Coach Brandon Mercer has remained diligent in developing his pitchers in both ability and mentality. Utilizing facets of throwing programs like Driveline and Jaeger, Mercer has been working from the ground up on progressing his athletes. “We have been working really hard and we are excited to see how far we’ve come. It’s no secret that we didn’t start with the most talented pitching staff but we are ready to prove to everyone how we have developed and what we can do,” says Mercer.

The seniors of the Panhandle baseball team make up only six players of a roster of over fifty, but LaRocque notes that the leadership shown by the senior class more than exceeds their small number. “We have made our guys compete in nearly everything they do, and the seniors have stepped up to become team mentors and spearhead the efforts of keeping guys persistent and striving for their best,” affirms LaRocque.

As the season opener draws near, the enthusiasm and anticipation for the season is palpable in both the coaches and the athletes, but LaRocque remains resilient in not becoming content. “We have to put our best product on the field, day in and day out. Our guys have the desire to win, but the real testament to our season will be if they will be able to maintain the desire for excellence;” declares LaRocque, “The question will be, do they want to be good or do they want to be great.”

The spring season will kick off with an opener at home on Saturday, Jan. 27; the Aggies will host a double-header against University of Saint Mary starting at 12 p.m. The four-game series will wrap up on Sunday, Jan. 28 with games three and four, first pitch at Noon.

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