CROWN POINT - No one is expecting the Crown Point baseball team to duplicate last season, which is just fine with the Panthers.
"It will be a change not having that label (favorite) attached to us this year, but I think it'll be to our benefit," Coach Eric Mullen said. "These guys will be able to play looser and it will give them that extra motivation necessary to beat the tougher teams in our league."
Last spring was a dream season for Crown Point. The Panthers advanced to the state tournament Final Four before losing their only game of the season.
They finished with a 20-1 record, winning the Mountain and Valley Athletic Conference and Section VII Class D championships along the way.
Crown Point graduated five players from that squad, including all-state catcher Travis Tabor and all-state pitcher-shortstop Jacob Spring.
Don't feel too badly for the Panthers, though. They return eight players, including five starters.
The infield is deep and experienced. Justin Potter, Tony Rodriguez, Aaron Walters, Ross Malone, Nathan Tabor and Cody Wayman all return. They're joined by rookie Jonathan Spaulding.
Mac Kiely and Will Glebus return to the outfield. New outfielders are Tanner Macey, Michael Dushane, Vinny Gibbs and Jeff Clarke. Potter and Rodriguez will also see outfield time.
Potter, Tabor, Wayman and Macey will man the mound for the Panthers.
Wayman and Dushane will catch.
"In order for us to win and be competitive we will have to play solid defense behind our pitchers," Mullen said. "We've got some new guys in the infield, but they are playing well in practice and are filling the holes nicely that were left by the departing seniors."
Leadership will be a key, the coach said, with the loss of Travis Tabor and Spring.
"You can't even begin to replace the level of leadership that they brought, but somebody will need to step up and take charge," Mullen said. "I'm hoping one of the veterans will rise to the challenge and be an example in practice, on the field and in the classroom."
Assisting Mullen on the bench this season are Kevin Gadway and David Potter.
April 20....at Johnsburg
April 22....at Keene
April 29....at Bolton
May 1........at Schroon Lake
May 6........at Westport
May 8........at ELCS
May 13......Indian/Long lake
May 15......at Chazy