Spirit of JacksonvilleREAD ONLINE
Cabot Panthers: No looking backPublished March 10, 2013 at 5:00 a.m.
As he prepares to coach for his 16th season, 14th as head coach for the Cabot Panthers, Jay Fitch enters the 2013 season with 208 career wins. He hopes to increase that number and, hopefully, get the chance to nab a state title.
The Panthers experienced a lackluster 2012 season, finishing at the bottom of the conference.
“We struggled last year,” Fitch said. “Last year was probably my worst year as head coach as far as wins and losses go, but we had a real young team.”
The coach said his then-young team has grown from last season’s experience and is ready to compete.
“It was also kind of a rewarding season in seeing those young kids develop in those three months, and hopefully, that’s going to pay off for us this year — all the experience that they gained as youngsters last year,” Fitch said. “I think we’re going to, hopefully, compete for that 7A-6A East conference championship; that’s the goal.”
Best Hitter for Average: Senior Casey Vaughan, the team’s only all-conference player last year, hit for a .360 batting average. “He’s one of our senior leaders, for sure,” Fitch said. “He’s being recruited by some schools, so we feel that he’s going to have a good chance at playing at the next level.”
Best Power Hitter: Junior catcher/pitcher Zachary Patterson. “We really expect a big year from Zachary,” Fitch said. “He has a lot of raw power; the ball really jumps off his bat when he connects. He should be one of our main RBI guys and should hit in the 4 or 5 hole.”
Best Speed: Junior outfielder Conner Vocque has the Panther’s best overall speed. “That’s why he’s in center field. Hopefully, he can run down a lot of baseballs for us,” Fitch said. Vocque will be hitting in the leadoff hole for the Panthers.
Best Fielder: Senior shortstop Cole Thomas. “Cole is not a big guy, but pound for pound, he is one of the best athletes on the team,” Fitch said. “We really think he will be solid in the field this year and be able to help us at the plate as well.”
Best Arm: Fitch said Patterson has a true D1 arm. “He throws really well. We’ve had him consistently on our radar gun at 88-89 mph, and when you get up close to 90 mph, that’s an above-average high school arm, for sure,” Fitch said.
Overall, with a more mature team and a few solid seniors, the Panthers leave last season behind and set their sights on a redeeming season; a conference title in a new conference, 7A-6A East; and a chance at a state championship. “Obviously you want to finish as high in the conference as you can and then go on and see what happens in the state tournament, and out of my 14 years, last time was only the third time we didn’t make state,” Fitch said. “We were disappointed that we didn’t get to make it, but at the same time, we were optimistic in knowing we had a chance at coming back,” he said. The Panthers will enter the 2013 season not only with optimism and a new conference, but a new home. The 2013 Cabot High School baseball and softball teams will christen the new CHS baseball/softball complex. “Last year, we had to practice on the city field, and we were thankful for that, … but our kids have been able to prepare better than we ever have,” Fitch said. “So, we’re really proud of the new facility, and people are excited about coming out and seeing the new field.”