The 16th-ranked played back-to-back games last week versus the fifth-ranked San Manuel Miners and lost both games. The Miners were able to capitalize on the poor defensively play of the Panthers.
“We came out strong,” Ricky Longoria said after the 14 – 4 loss last Friday. “But one bad inning just killed us.”
The team knows an improvement in its defense is a must as the playoffs approach.
“Our defense has to get tougher,” Panthers’ head coach Manuel Ortega said after Friday’s game. “We’ve had two bad games defensively, but we’ll shape up before our next game.”
Including the two games versus San Manuel, the Panthers have played three straight games against teams ranked in the top seven in Division IV. Their next two games are against 18th-ranked Pima and 7th-ranked Ray. The schedule doesn’t get any easier, but the experience helps with the state tournament coming up.
“This helps us,” Ortega said about the tough stretch in the schedule. “We’ve seen three good pitchers over the last two games and we’re hitting the ball well. That’s the positive we have (out of the last two games).”
The players remain confident as the regular season winds down. They know where they were when the season started and where they are now.
“We’ve definitely improved from the beginning of the season,” Longoria said.
They have to make one last improvement – on defense – to finish strong.
Upcoming schedule: Apr. 23 vs. Pima, Apr. 25 @ Ray, and Apr. 28 DH vs. Gilbert Classical Academy. Games versus Pima and Ray begin at 4:00 p.m. Check with the school for game times and location for the doubleheader vs. GCA.