Panthers Prepare For Start Of Season

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Enjoying success requires the ability to adapt. Entering his third season at the helm of the Litchfield Purple Panthers baseball club, Coach Chris Headrick has learned that. 

His ability to adapt will really shine this season as the Purple Panthers will look to replace six starters on the diamond who graduated last season. 

The task will be a challenge to start the season as Coach Headrick looks to rebuild with a younger team. In the words of the fictional coach, Jimmy Dugan, of the Rockford Peaches, "It is suppose to be hard. If it wasn't hard everyone would do it. The hard makes it great." 

Coach Headrick will have some help coming back as senior Billy Beckham and Jake Jurgena and sophomore Jacob Frerichs will return to their spots on the diamond this season. Even though there are some uncertainties, these three players have brought some spark to the team and a positive culture. 

"The seniors are always working with the younger guys and because of this the dynamic and culture of this team is special," said Coach Headrick. 

The special team culture being created will help the Purple Panthers overcome some of the uncertainties, and butterflies, as the players come to practice, wanting to learn and make themselves better. 

Coach Headrick said his players, "come to practice ready to work and learn. Every guy on the field is looking for ways they can improve and they are all pushing each other to be better."

One of the players Coach Headrick will look to lean on this season is Beckham, who recently signed with Robert Morris University to continue his baseball career and will look to finish on top

Beckham will be a huge asset with his bat and his arm. After a breakout year on the mound last season, Beckham will be called on to help the young Purple Panther group out. 

Beckham's bat will also be a huge asset for the Purple Panthers. Batting nearly .300 last season, he was second in runs batted in and with a good eye, he led his team in base on balls.

Jacob Frerichs, who began to turn some heads during his freshman season, will look to make an impact in his second season with the Purple Panthers. 

As a freshman, Frerichs came out of the gate as a starter and never disappointed in his role. He really became an impact player towards the end of his freshman season. 

Just like Beckham, Frerichs will also help the Purple Panthers out on the mound. No matter what Frerichs does, his positive work ethic will trickle down throughout the Purple Panthers' roster.

With the leadership at the top the Purple Panthers will use the older experience to help shape an entirely new infield. Due to graduation, the Purple Panthers will look to use the beginning of the season to fill the roles that a talented group of boys left behind. 

Junior Nick Braasch will maintain the hot corner. A leader on the junior varsity team the past two seasons, junior Clayton Walch will look to bring the skills to the middle of the diamond as he will take over the shortstop position. Senior Jeremy Frazier will complete the middle of the infield as he will take over the reins at second base. 

Finishing 8-15 overall and 3-6 in the South Central Conference last season, Coach Headrick, like other Purple Panthers' sporting teams, has Hillsboro circled on their schedule as a game to look forward to this season. Coach Headrick will look to claim his second win against Hillsboro in South Central Conference games in his three seasons as the skipper at Litchfield. 

Even though there are some uncertainties entering the 2019 campaign, Coach Headrick has a lot to build on from a season ago. 

A lot of these players and the Purple Panther fans can remember the final game of the 2018 campaign when the Litchfield squad almost defeated the Staunton Bulldogs in extra innings. The Bulldogs would eventually lose in the sectional championship to the state runner-up, Teutopolis. 

That loss will be used as a building block to start the season and a base to help the Purple Panthers to build on. Coach Headrick has a lot of faith in the lineup that will touch the field in the season and home opener on Friday, March 15 against the Marquette Explorers. 

With the idea that an expert in anything was once a beginner, the Purple Panthers will look to become experts by the end of the year. 

"We are very young, but this is by far the most coachable team I have ever worked with," said Headrick. "This team loves to work hard and push each other each day. They keep each other accountable and if they can keep this mindset throughout the year, we will be heading in the right direction at the right time."

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