The Princeton Panthers aim to right the ship ahead of the 2023 season, with goals of reaching the playoffs.
Last season, Princeton finished 5-19 in the regular season, but return key players and welcome several young players ready to make an impact in 2023. For head coach Leroy Mansanales, getting to the playoffs will be a tough task, but is something he sees as capable for his program.
“As always our goal is to get into the playoffs whether it’s first place or fourth place,” Mansanales said. “Once we’re in it’s a whole new season and a lot of different things can happen at that point and we’ll start that season.”
One of the key components of the new season is a new-look district for the Panthers in District 13-5A. With Wylie East and The Colony in new districts, Princeton welcomes Greenville and Melissa in their place, creating several challenges ahead.
“We definitely have one of the tougher districts in the area,” Mansanales said. “We lost a couple of good teams, but I think Melissa is going to be really good and Greenville has a new coach who’s very good as well. With that comes a different mentality and I think they’ll be a tough out. We can’t take anyone lightly and we have to stay on top of our game and play fundamental baseball.”
Leading the way for Princeton, Blake Lindsey comes back as the ace starter for the Panthers’ rotation. He’s been one of Princeton’s top players for the last couple of seasons and hopes to make a greater impact in his senior season. He was named an all-district first-team pitcher last season for the Panthers.
The benefit for Princeton is behind Lindsey where they have more depth this season, including Efrain Lujan, Landon Ayers and Chad Kyle who hope to earn a starting role. That collection of pitchers is a saving grace for Mansanales as he works out the new rotation.
“He’s our No. 1 pitcher and has been for a few seasons now,” Mansanales said. “He’s going to be huge for us this year, but we’ve got some depth behind him in Efrian, Landon and Chad that can provide a nice mix of righties and lefties on the mound and rotate those guys in throughout the season.”
All of Princeton’s pitching prospects will get an opportunity early in the season to prove themselves on the mound. As the team approaches its opening games hosting the Princeton ISD tournament on Feb. 23-25 is a chance for them to earn roles in the rotation.
“We’ll go through scrimmage season and everyone will get their share of innings,” Mansanales said. “All of them will get starting opportunities this season at the tournament we host to open the season and then we’ll take stock to see what we got on the mound. We hope our starters can give us four good innings most nights and we want to see each of our guys do that early in the season.”
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