Well-rested Panthers face Camels
Playing for the first time in 10 days, the High Point University baseball team should be well-rested when it begins a three-game series against visiting Campbell today at Williard Stadium (first pitch 6 p.m.).
The Panthers were certainly in need of a break when they closed their pre-final exam schedule by playing five games in five days. The concern for coach Craig Cozart is just how long they will need to get back in the swing of things.
“It was quite obvious that we needed a break, the way we were slow with our bat speed and other things,” Cozart said. “And we’ve had some mental fatigue with exams and in all my years of coaching, I’ve never seen a team not bothered by exams if they were playing.
“So, we’re past that. The thing is you get in a rhythm playing baseball every day. So, my biggest worry is how long will it take us to get back into that rhythm.
The Panthers don’t have much margin for error. Campbell has the best conference record in the Big South as it leads the North Division at 14-4. HPU, which has played three less conference games than most of the league, is tied for third in the North at 9-6.
“They are a tremendous team,” Cozart said. “They’re hitting .318. But the thing is their speed. They’ve stolen 110 bases. Their top guy has stolen 43 bases and that’s about what we’ve stolen as a team. They want to get on base and then keep pressure on you with their speed up and down the lineup.”
The Panthers have defended against the stolen base well, having allowed just 23.
“The thing we just can’t do is give them any gifts in getting on base,” Cozart said. “We do have two catchers in Josh Spano and Spencer Angelis who can get rid of the ball quickly and get it down to second. The thing is to show them that they aren’t going to intimidate us with their speed.
“Last year in the conference tournament, we picked them off first twice and threw them out twice trying to steal second. They played us pretty much straight up after that.”
The Camels have also done well on the mound fashioning a league-leading 2.98 ERA.
“They have done just an outstanding job pitching,” Cozart said. “They don’t have a lot of arm strength. But they do a great job of keeping hitters off balance.”