With 17 straight district wins under their belts, the Lufkin Panthers’ baseball team has its sights set on a second straight 16-5A title.
The Panthers have nine wins in their last 10 games and have started district action with four straight victories to sit atop the standings as the midway point draws near.
Even with those impressive numbers, head coach John Cobb and the Panthers know they still have plenty of work ahead of them.
“We like where we are now, but if we go out and lose the next one, then it doesn’t matter,” Cobb said. “At this point, the next game is always the most important one so that has to be our focus.”
The Panthers currently have a 13-4 overall record to go along with their 4-0 district mark. Lufkin opened the season by dropping three of five games in the Houston Memorial Tournament.
That was followed by an impressive showing in the Brazoswood tournament when it overcame a 4-1 deficit in the last inning to take down the host team.
“Things kind of seemed to turn around for us with that game,” Cobb said. “We’ve only lost one game since then and that was when we split a doubleheader against Pine Tree.”
Lufkin has opened district with wins over Nacogdoches, Whitehouse, John Tyler and Lindale. A key showdown with Corsicana is set for Morris Frank Park on Friday night.
The Panthers and Corsicana are the two lone remaining unbeaten teams in the district.
“It’s a big game because it can give you a leg up in district,” Cobb said. “But if you beat them then go out and lose to John Tyler, it doesn’t mean a whole lot. Right now we just need to pile up as many wins as we can get.”
Lufkin has gotten off to its fast start thanks to solid pitching combined with a balanced lineup.
Logan Lair and Kolton Eberlan have both been strong as starters, while Christian Stephens has been the team’s closer.
“Even when Logan doesn’t have his best stuff, he still goes out there and competes and as a coach you love to see that,” Cobb said. “Kolton comes in and throws kind of three-quarters. He can either start or close, and Christian has been our closer. The thing I like about them is they come out and throw strikes.”
Lufkin’s lineup has provided the pop at the top between Jonathan Dewberry, Luke Rowley and Blake Lazarine.
“Jonathan is a sophomore and he’s our leadoff guy,” Cobb said. “Luke was our leadoff guy last year and Blake was the Offensive MVP of the district.
Cobb said Dylan Murphy has also been hot at the plate as of late.
That combination should make the Panthers a dangerous team as district play wraps up and the playoffs start next month.
“We have a chance to be really good,” Cobb said. “Right now we’re still sort of feeling each other out, but if we keep getting better, we can be tough to beat.”
First pitch for Friday night’s game against Corsicana is set for 7 at Morris Frank Park.