Panthers defeat Hayden at Padilla Tournament

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Panthers Nicolaus Cruz warms up on the mound.
Kelli Luberda | Superior Sun

Panthers’ Ricky Longoria at bat. Kelli Luberda | Superior Sun

Superior Sun

The Panthers’ baseball team won its first game of the season last week versus Hayden, 18 – 6. Like many other teams, the Panthers competed in the Joe S. Padilla Baseball Tournament last weekend.

The results weren’t as positive in other games for the Panthers. But playing in these tournaments is not as much about wins and losses as it is about gaining experience. For a team with a number of freshmen, the experience is more important.

“It’s helping us,” Panthers’ head coach Manuel Ortega said of playing in the Padilla Tournament. “We’re getting used to live play and seeing teams that are better than us, which will help us in the future.”

Ortega wants to see his team improve and believes they are talented enough to do just that.

“They’ll get more comfortable,” Ortega said after an 11 – 0 loss to Combs. “They’ll be ready (when the regular season starts).”

Some of the younger players on the team know there are high expectations on them and appear ready to meet the challenges of playing at the varsity level.

“I’m sure I speak for all the freshmen – people were telling us it’s a different game up here and it is,” freshman phenom Nicolaus Cruz said. “We just need to adapt quick. People are expecting a lot from us and I think we can pull it out.”

Varsity veterans like senior Ceasar Villalobos know their responsibilities include helping the younger players adjust to the speed of the game.

“We need to have them work hard at practice and get reps,” Villalobos said. “They’re adjusting well, so far.”

The Panthers upcoming schedule includes a home game versus Duncan on March 13 at 3:30 p.m.

Andy Luberda (1029 Posts)

Andrew Luberda began writing for Copper Area News Publishers (CANP) in February 2013 after working 15 years in Healthcare Financial Management. Andy covers sports for 11 high schools. His stories are published in Copper Basin News, San Manuel Miner and Superior Sun, in addition to the San Tan Valley Daily PRSS and CopperArea websites. Additionally, he has written human interest stories and business profiles. In May 2012, he earned an AAS in Sports Management at Central Arizona College before graduating with a BS in Communication from Arizona State University in 2014. He and his wife, Kelli, have three sons – AJ, Kyle, and Kade.


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