It’s only two weeks into baseball season, and Providence’s young team has already faced a slew of obstacles. As usual, coach Danny Hignight challenged his team with a difficult nonconference slate to prepare it for the rigors of the So. Meck 8. The Panthers have faced the likes of Hough, Marvin Ridge and Alexander Central. They have many high-caliber opponents remaining in and out of league action.
However, they faced an unforeseen obstacle that has presented itself with much adversity. Providence is finally on the backend of a flu epidemic that effected several players, including Hignight. Eleven players were out with the virus one day last week, followed by an absence of seven players another day and two one day. The Panthers are finally turning the corner as they get over the bug, but there’s no rest for the weary.
Providence (4-2, 3-0 So. Meck 8) visits rival Ardrey Kell (4-3, 3-0 So. Meck 8) Friday, March 17. The Panthers are tied with the Knights and South Meck (4-3, 3-0 So. Meck 8) for the top spot, so this game is critical in terms of jockeying for the league lead.
Providence has a good balance of solid execution when it comes to hitting, pitching and fielding. However, the starting lineup has young and inexperienced players playing key roles. For example, Hignight is starting a freshman and two sophomores. He wants to see his team mature, which should come with experience.
The Panthers have seen a bunch of players move on to the collegiate ranks after reaching at least the regional finals three consecutive years and winning a state championship two years go.
“We lost a lot of really good leadership,” Hignight said. “Guys have to grow into that mold. It’s not something that’s just given to you. That’s part of the growing process. We’re looking for guys to step up, and continue this program in the direction it’s always been going.”
The core of the team is talented. It should give Hignight and his coaching staff a strong cornerstone to build around.
Junior pitcher Timmy Townsend, a preseason All-American, gives the Panthers an ace on the mound, while sophomore Ray Torres is a dependable catcher behind the plate. Senior shortstop Satchel Jerzembeck anchors a talented infield with sophomore second baseman Michael Danskey. Senior first baseman Brennon Welsh, senior left fielder Cole Revels, senior center fielder Jason Garfinkle and senior right fielder Cameron Bare are also vital pieces to the lineup.
Juniors Will Palinkas and Jake Benoit are new to the team. They bring athleticism and tremendous upsides to the roster.
Providence is still a contender for the So. Meck 8 championship and possibly a state title despite its youth. Other than the talent on the field, much of that can be attributed to Hignight’s coaching staff, which includes Jon Tuscan, Ben Hurst, Heath Brown, Ryan McClintock, Zach McKelvey and Sean Thomas.
Brown has been with Hignight for 14 years. This is Tuscan’s second stint with the program. He returns to Providence after spending the better part of the last decade at South Meck as the Sabres’ head coach, where he won a state title. Hurst, McKelvey and McClintock played for Hignigth at Providence, while Thomas is new to the program.
“I think we have a better staff than some college programs have from a loyalty standpoint, a knowledge standpoint and a hard-working standpoint,” Hignight said. “I couldn’t ask for a better set of assistant coaches than what I have.”
Providence is at a good place even though it still has much to learn as a young team. The Panthers should only get better with time. Maturity comes with experience, and so does improvement.