Expectations are high for the Panthers Baseball team.
“This is a fun group and they are very coachable,” Pinewood coach Jay Buddin said. “They are focused and if we continue to swing the bats the way we have been we will win games. I think we are good enough to make a deep run.”
Pinewood Prep was ranked third in the state for its classification in one preseason poll, but found itself having to quarantine for several days just before the season started. The team opened its regular season with a victory over Heathwood Hall Episcopal, but then dropped games to Orangeburg Prep and Laurence Manning Academy.
Then the Panthers caught fire, winning 11 straight games. The streak began March 6 when Pinewood avenged its loss the day before by handing Laurence Manning a 5-3 loss. The Panthers didn’t lose the rest of the month.
“Our confidence is really high and this team understands what it takes to win,” Buddin said. “They are experienced enough to not fold when it gets tough. They keep chipping away and our pitchers are good enough to keep us in games.”
The squad is anchored by its group of 11 juniors, who all played for Pinewood as freshmen. Cooper Robinson, Trey Blume and TJ Hatchett are outfielders. Noah Cadiz is the starting catcher. Weston Hickerson and Lowden Olsen are middle infielders. Parker White and Luke Hartig are corner infielders. Danny Flatt, Alec Rehegan and Mason Cruse provide overall depth as well as pitching depth.
The time the group has spent together seems to be paying off. Pinewood is also receiving good leadership and play from its three seniors.
Rounding out the varsity roster are senior first baseman Matt Morris, senior outfielder Ben Beckwith, senior middle infielder Aidan Bisbano and sophomore pitcher Garrett Brust.
Robinson, Beckwith and Hartig have done most of the pitching so far, but the Panthers have 10 other players who can help out on the mound. Beckwith threw a no hitter, striking out eight batters, during an 11-1 victory over First Baptist. Robinson, Flatt and Rehegan all pitched during a no hitter against Northwood Academy.
The Panthers have also shown talent at the plate early this season. As a team, Pinewood has a .383 batting average. Robinson is leading the way with a .537 batting average. Olsen is hitting .511 and both Morris and Bisbano carry .400-plus averages. Bisbano has five home runs on the season, including a grand slam during a win over Woodland. Hartig has three home runs on the season.
Pinewood’s winning streak ended April 2 with a 6-5 loss to Orangeburg Prep in eight innings. The Panthers fell to 12-3 on the season with a 6-0 mark in their region.
Still, the team carried some momentum into this week’s Hanahan Invitational Tournament that runs through April 8. Pinewood is the only private school in the tournament.
After the HIT, Pinewood faces a showdown with Porter-Gaud. The Cyclones are also 6-0 in the region so the three-game series will determine the region championship. Pinewood hosts the Cyclones at 7 p.m. April 12, travels to Porter-Gaud April 13 and then hosts the series finale at 7 p.m. April 16, which is Senior Night.