We paid a very brief visit to the Van Alstyne softball field to check out one of the opening practices for the 2014 Lady Panther softball team on Friday.
The brevity came as a result of the stiff northerly wind that was chillin’ the air too cold for this hearty soul.
For the fourth consecutive year, the Lady Panthers will be welcoming a new coach as Jason Brogdon takes the reins of the program. Brogdon comes to Van Alstyne from Howe High School where he led the Bulldog baseball team to a third place finish in District 11-2A last season.
The Lady Panthers compete in one of the toughest softball districts in the region as 12-2A is the home of the defending state champion Pilot Point Lady Bearcats. Pilot Point, Gunter and Sunnyvale were the three playoff teams from this district last season, and Gunter won its bi-district game before losing to Brock in the area round.
Van Alstyne lost only one senior to graduation, pitcher Hunter Offill, but the returning team is still very young.
It’s way too early to make any position determinations about this squad but it will bring a lot on enthusiasm to the diamond.
Typically, 24-hours in Texas is enough time to see a major change in the weather and last weekend was no exception. On Saturday we traveled up to Howe to check out the opening day of practice for the 2014 Howe Bulldogs.
They, too, are welcoming a new coach as Torrey Ognoskie will replace Brogdon as head coach. Ognoskie comes to the Bulldogs from Weimar where he led his Wildcats to a pair of regional final appearances in his two years there.
Ognoskie also has coached at Porter High School in the New Caney ISD. The Texas A&M grad graciously allowed us entry, even though we had worn our UT garb.
Howe will open the season with a very strong pitching staff, led by Dallas Baptist University signee Garrett Fulenchek.
We talked to Fulenchek before practice began to get his thoughts on the coming season.
“We all have the same goals, a playoff spot for sure and a district championship would be okay too,” said Fulenchek., who said he was relieved to have his college choice behind him so that he can concentrate on his senior season.
Josh Griffin and Griffin Underwood will provide depth on the mound for the Bulldogs, as well.
Senior center fielder Randle Nix is also looking forward to the upcoming season.
“We want to go back to the playoff’s and hopefully do better when we get there.” Nix said. “I want to work on my hitting and get a lot better at the plate.”
Weather was even better later that afternoon as we came to Forrest Moore Park to check out the Panthers’ opening practice.
Veteran coach Jimmy Haynes and his team are looking to end a post-season absence that has gone on far too long. Junior Trey Burden will be one of the Panther players who hopes to emulate the turnaround success of the football team.
“Last year was hard for us to go through and nobody wants to do that again. I want to get better as a pitcher and fielder and help us get back to the playoffs,” Burden said.
Sophomore infielder Shawn Wheeler is even more anxious to get the 2014 season started.
“ I could only help out last year as a courtesy runner, and I want to contribute in the field this year,” he said. Wheeler was coming off of a football injury that limited his work on the baseball team last season.
Two of the Panthers’ leading hitters from 2013 were absent from the opening day activities as Alex Phillips and Kearon Redmon were broadening their intellectual scope at cooking classes.
That’s their story and they are sticking to it.