Young Panthers set to roll

Photo courtesy of Krystal Elmore Jacob Davis of Siloam Springs makes a play at first base against Gravette on March 15.
Photo courtesy of Krystal Elmore Jacob Davis of Siloam Springs makes a play at first base against Gravette on March 15.

First-year Siloam Springs baseball Coach Michael Smith has a young team this season, but that has not slowed down the Panthers so far this season.

Siloam Springs won its first two games by a combined 22-3 after going 3-20-1 with no postseason play last year. The Panthers also scored 11 runs in a win over Pea Ridge.

"We will have a fairly young team this year starting only two seniors in the field while relying on one to serve as a starter on the mound," Smith said.

Nolan Wills will be at shortstop, Blake Beckett will play at second base and Andrew Elkins will be on the mound, Smith said.

"Outside of those three, our team will be relying on a heavy mixture of both juniors and sophomores throughout the rest of the field," Smith said. "It is really hard to designate or tag any of the players as a starter being the team's chemistry and increased competition for each spot has been tremendous. Our lineups will vary from game to game."

Pitching will be a focus that we have this season, as Smith said he made sure he was able to make a quality hire in Coach Hayden Sutton to help develop the staff.

"Coach Sutton has been working with several players, but I feel that we have a really solid five guys that we can rely on during varsity games," Smith said. "Each one of these players can step into the starting role or come in as a dangerous reliever."

The pitching group is led by senior Elkins and sophomore Jonathan Hyde. The rest of the pitching core will consist of junior Bode Butler, sophomore Jack OBrien and junior Aiden Gayler, Smith said.

"I really feel that the success of our pitchers comes from the attention to details in resting and recovering," Smith said. "Many times, I have seen guys try to do too much and put an unhealthy amount of pressure on themselves in the moment. Our guys understand and have really developed a trust in their arms as well as their teammates. This is the most honest group of young men that I have been around that puts the needs of the team before their own, and has really embraced the mindset of knowing their limits."

A team strength is camaraderie, Smith said.

"I have never been around a group of young men that have embraced one another and put the team's needs before their own," Smith said. "Feeding off of this, I think that our depth and ability to play multiple positions is something we will rely on."

The Panthers did lose junior catcher Landon Fain before the season due to injury, Smith said.

"Fain was one of our top offensive players as well as what I believe could have been an All-Conference catcher," Smith said. "With that said we have three guys who have really stepped up and are working to fill this void. Braxton Majors is going to be a critical player moving forward."

Smith said he is excited to be a part of this team.

"The guys have been working extremely hard both on and off the field," Smith said. "With the buy-in that the guys have established we were able to achieve a team GPA of a 3.54 in the first semester, and it allows us to really focus on the game.

"We have a tremendous amount of support that has not been evident in the past few years within our program. I think the guys are feeling this, and it's providing them an opportunity to go out and enjoy the game without having any stress of trying to prove that they can compete with others."

  photo  Photo courtesy of Krystal Elmore Siloam Springs Pitcher Andrew Elkins throws against Gravette in a March 15 game.
  photo  Photo courtesy of Krystal Elmore The Siloam Springs baseball team prepares to take the field against Gravette on March 15.