Panthers prepare for opener against Pentwater

BALDWIN — Opening day is a few days away for the Baldwin Panthers baseball team, which opens Monday at Pentwater.

But coach Doug Bolles and his players continue to make preparations to get ready for the new season.

The home opener is Tuesday against McBain Northern Michigan Christian.

Baldwin didn’t practice over spring break with many players out of town and inclement weather.

Bolles has 12 on his roster.

Brandon Avery leads the way at pitcher-shortstop for the Panthers.

“He has great leadership and is coming off his state championship bowling season,” Bolles said. “He has a lot of confidence.”

Devon Sparks and Hunter Nichols are also two returning starters. Freshman Daekwon Fisher is a promising prospect at catcher and second base.

“He’ll probably lead off for us,” Bolles said. “He’s raw but has a lot of talent. Nichols and Sparks are two other key guys coming back. I’m looking at them for leadership. Of the 12, six are first-year players.”

Bolles anticipates another competitive season in the West Michigan D League.

“I would say Brethren is going to be the team to beat,” Bolles said. “NMC will be right there. With our inexperience, it will be us, Pentwater, Walkerville and Crossroads probably in the bottom half. The kids I have are great kids. They’re raw and there’s so many things for them to learn. I hope they don’t get frustrated.”

Sparks, a junior, will pitch and play first base.

“I pitched toward the end of last year,” he said. “I want to throw a lot of strikes. I want to work the count. I don’t want to groove it.”

Sparks said he’s improved a lot.

“I’ve been working over the summer and went to some camps,” he said. “We have young guys and some returners and some of the returners are young. We don’t have a lot of number.”

Nichols is a sophomore shortstop, pitcher and catcher. He said catcher is his best position.

“We’ve had our ups and downs but we’ve managed,” he said. “We’re pretty young. We can make it thought it if we keep guys going and keep it consistent so we control the outcome.”