The Panthers held their season ending banquet at Saluda Shoals with approximately one hundred and fifty people in attendance. Former Panther players Jonathan Liva and Jake Brunson attended the festivities and joined in the fun and games as the players and parents joined in volleyball and bean bag toss games. Some of the players also played in the river after many games in the dusty “ga ga” ball pit. D’s Wings provided wings and the player families provided sides and desserts. One of the great things about the baseball program is the comradery among the baseball families and this was evident again as people stayed and fellowshipped for over seven hours on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.
The coaches discussed the state of the baseball program and how it has grown from one team and fifteen players in year one to three teams and forty-two players in year six. The coaches then handed out the year-end awards. The most important award the baseball program hands out is the Mr. Panther Award. This award goes to the player who most consistently models Christ like behavior and leadership to their teammates; their coaches; their competition and even to the umpires. The 2015 winners for this prestigious award are Whit Melnyk (B-Team); Zach Thurber (Junior Varsity) and Clay Dickinson (Varsity).
The Pitching awards went to Avery Blevins (B-Team); William Lawyer (Junior Varsity) and to Trevor Dacus (Varsity). The Golden Glove award that goes annually to the best fielder’s went to David Hucks (B-Team); Matthew Derrick (Junior Varsity) and to Pat Brunson (Varsity). The Silver Slugger award that goes annually to the best hitters went to McKinley Proctor (B-Team); Danny Waller (Junior Varsity) and to Anderson Blevins (Varsity).
Varsity players earning their first baseball pin and their PAC letter were Cole Plyer, Parker Pocock, John Edens, Daniel Williams and Eli Williams. Varsity Players earning their first baseball pin were Cal Hucks and Carson Floyd. Varsity Players earning their second or third baseball pin were Anderson Blevins, Daniel Barfield, JC Ellis, Pat Brunson, Trevor Dacus, James Reed, Daniel Reed and Clay Dickinson. Congratulations to all of our award winners.
PAC loses six players to graduation this year. They are Daniel Reed (2012-2015); Daniel Barfield (2011-2015); Pat Brunson (2011-2015); Trevor Dacus (2011-2015); JC Ellis (2010-2015) and Clay Dickinson (2010-2015). Daniel Reed was a versatile player that helped out in pitching, infield and in the outfield. Daniel Barfield was a solid baserunner and defender; always seeming to come up with a clutch hit when his team needed it. Pat improved tremendously over his time with the Panthers, hitting over .400 his senior season. Pat also set a new record by scoring 36 runs this year. Trevor leaves as the winningest pitcher in Panthers history accumulating fourteen wins over three varsity seasons. He also holds the record for career strikeouts (81). JC was one of the two and a half remaining original members of the PAC baseball program. He helped the team in the outfield and as a pitcher; winning six varsity games and setting a career record for PAC with a 2.88 earned run average (era). Part of his improvement was the time he put in by himself studying pitching and looking for ways to improve his performance. Clay was the other last, full member of the inaugural PAC baseball team. He also worked hard to improve himself during his time in the program. He played third for PAC and hit over .425 his senior season. Clay also now shares the record with Alex Blevins for the most hits in a single season with 37.
Not only does PAC baseball lose six players to graduation this year, they also lose one coach and two team chaplains. Thad Brunson has served as coach for the past five years, first for the Junior Varsity team and, second, for Varsity. His technical skill and folksy sayings will be missed by his players as well as by their parents. Thad helped oversee a huge improvement in the quality of play in the Panther baseball program and “Goodness, Gracious, Mercy Sakes Alive” he will be missed by all.
The program also loses chaplains, Robert Dickinson and Eric Barfield, who have been just as important to any coach on the field. These two men helped oversee our program’s efforts to use baseball to teach Godly character. They used whatever tools were provided and, in some cases, designed their own in an effort to ‘Train our Young Men for Eternity” (TYME). Eric also helped craft baseball’s mission statement and define its values. Eric wrote the team devotions one year and has captured them in his first (of many?) published book: Christian Leadership Principles for Young Men, which may be purchased at “Smashwords.com”. Their presence around the field and in the dugout will be sorely missed.