2021 Season Preview: Crestwood Panthers
05/27/2021 9:06 PM -
Crestwood, Ill. – May 28, 2021 – As memorable as the Panthers’ 2020 season was, it still wasn’t enough. Crestwood did set franchise records in a number of different categories including total wins, longest winning streak, most games over .500 and most runs scored in a game. That said, they finished short of what would have been their first-ever MCL playoff appearance. That, according to manager Isaac Valdez, is the team’s ultimate goal in 2021.
“We’re all competitors,” Valdez said. “And although our top goal is player development, it would be great if we end up in the championship series.”
The Panthers certainly possess the means to make it to that point. A number of key returners from last year’s team, including Tim Fauth (North Park / Elk Grove Village, Ill.), Kevin Coe (Eastern Kentucky / Chicago, Ill.) and Donavan Noble (South Suburban / Chicago, Ill.), stand to lead the charge offensively. Maurey Garrett (University of Northwestern Ohio / Homewood, Ill.) is also back following a 2020 hiatus, and part-time players from last season in KJ Evans (Rockford University / Crete, Ill.) and Ronald Applewhite (Culver-Stockton College / Chicago, Ill.) are expected to take on a more active role.
“I’m really excited for the mix of talent that we have this year,” Valdez said. “We have guys returning who have done well for us in the past, plus lots of new guys expected to do well. I’m really excited to see them all in action.”
Panthers veteran Tim Fauth echoes Valdez’s sentiment, as he believes that, after last season’s success, 2021 should serve as a statement year for the team.
“Last year, we made a lot of people think differently about us,” Fauth said. “We put together a good winning streak and a good year overall. It’s time to build off that. We need to let everyone know that we’re here to stay and that this is only something that is going to go up.”
Crestwood’s new additions will stand to make an immediate impact. Catcher Gannon Andrews (Purdue University Northwest / Portage, Mich.), a former PBR Future Games participant, is set to be a defensive stalwart behind the plate. Sean Lynch (Eastern Illinois / Indian Creek, Ill.) will patrol the outfield and play a major role in the heart of the batting order. And, Tyler Schultz (Purdue University Northwest / Hobart, Ind.), whom Valdez recruited out of high school, is expected to continue the hot hitting he registered during the spring collegiate season.
“Our strength is going to be our offense and defense,” Valdez said. “There will be a learning curve, though, for our pitching. We are going to be very, very young on the mound with quite a few high school graduates. That said, they’re very talented and they can do an excellent job.”
Bennett Wogan (Dominican University / Momence, Ill.) is one of the few Panthers pitchers with extensive college experience under his belt, and will be entrusted with valuable innings. Nathan Boyer (Purdue University Northwest / Oak Park, Ill.) will also receive ample opportunities after his increased collegiate workload in the spring. Recent high school graduates in Justin Johnson (Marian University / Cedar Lake, Ind.), Peyton Olejnik (Triton College / Cedar Lake, Ind.) and Justin Schassburger (Anderson University / Dyer, Ind.) are all ready to earn valuable experience this summer as well.
“I think we’re going to be a force to be reckoned with,” returnee Kevin Coe said. “Coach Valdez is a good coach, we have some good players, both new and returning; I think we’ll be a serious team. We have a chance to win it all this year.”
The Panthers season is set to kick off on Sunday, May 30 against the Joliet Generals at Benedictine University. Kevin Redfern and Jon Zaghloul will be on the call via the Panthers Broadcast Network, which is available on Facebook Live.