Coming off the most successful season in program history, the Circleville Post 134 Panthers are looking for pitching to be their early calling card as they start defense of their first state championship.
The staff will be led by Cedarville freshman and 2018 Teays Valley graduate Noah Cline and recent Teays Valley graduate Nick Salyer.
Long-time coach Jeff Lanman added recent Trimble graduate Noah Rossiter to the staff this season and he’ll join recent Westfall graduate Eric Corzatt.
“We have four guys who can throw in the mid-to-high 80s with Noah Cline, Nick Salyer, Noah Rossiter and also moving Ryan Schwartz onto the staff,” Lanman said. “We’ve never had that before much depth in terms of guys who throw that hard.
“We also have some good control pitchers, like Eric Corzatt, who won a pair of district tournament games for Westfall. I really like the group of pitchers we have, with nine-to-10 kids capable of giving us good innings.”
A pair of juniors, Zane Trace’s Lane Larson and Schwartz from Washington Court House will catch the pitching staff.
The Panthers (35-11 in 2018) return much of their power, centered around Salyer and Cline combining for 17 home runs last summer. Zane Trace junior Cam Farley moves from outfield to shortstop and recent Amanda-Clearcreek graduate Seth Lockard can play first and DH.
Post 134 added a trio of players in Grove City junior Andrew Grcic, who batted third for the Greyhounds and will play center, Southeastern (Clark) junior Ty Lau and Circleville sophomore Max Brooks.
The Panthers will move up Teays Valley junior Cody Kennedy, Teays Valley junior Josiah Roese and Amanda-Clearcreek junior Tanner Bennett off their 16U team, which also won a state championship last season.
“We have a really solid middle of the order with power and one of the bonuses this season is we’re quicker than we have been,” Lanman said. “I really like the potential of our lineup to hit, up-and-down the order, and be able to push more on the base pads.”
One concern for Lanman is gelling together the defense as the Panthers lost most of their middle to the age limit.
“We have kids who are capable of playing center, short, second and catch and do a very good job, but we’re having to move a few guys around and there will be a little adjustment time,” he said. “One of our strengths last season was how strong we were up-the-middle defensively.”
The Panthers have dropped playing in the South Central Ohio League during the regular-season and will compete in just the Region V Tournament next month as they look to return to the state tournament. Post 134 will travel to tournaments in Worthington, Terre Haute, Ind., Wheeling, W. Va., Kokomo, Ind. and the Buckeye Elite in Columbus over the next two months.
“We have a number of guys who are capable of playing either Division I or Division II baseball and this is their recruiting summer,” Lanman explained. “We wanted to expose them to tournaments where there will be a lot of college scouts and that also comes with playing some really good competition.
“We’re going to see a lot of state champions from the Great Lakes and mid-Atlantic states at these tournaments, along with some really good travel ball teams. That’s one reason why it’s important to have the depth we do pitching and have a lineup that can do a lot of different things.”
The Panthers opened the season with an 11-4 win over the weekend against Piqua Post 184 and will travel to rival Lancaster Post 11 on Tuesday night with first pitch at 6 in the friendly confines of Beavers Field.
Post 134 will have its home opener on Saturday, hosting Portsmouth Post 23 for a doubleheader at 1 and 3:30 p.m. at Circleville High School. The day will include a short service for Circleville grad and Panther alum Rusty Shull Jr., who was tragically lost in an automobile accident last November.