Polytech aims for return to tourney

 

Senior second baseman Carter Chasanov and the rest of the Polytech Panthers would like another chance at the state tournament after falling short last year. (Delaware State News file photo)

WOODSIDE — They weren’t upset because they had played poorly.

Actually, it was just the opposite.

Polytech High’s baseball players, the 11th seed, had given No. 6 Conrad all it could handle.

But a two-out run in the bottom of the seventh inning ended the Panthers’ season with a crushing 1-0 loss in the first round of last year’s state tournament.

“What was tough was seeing the reaction of the kids,” remembers Polytech coach George Eilers. “That’s always tough. They were very upset.

“When you go and leave it on the field the way they left it on the field. … when your team goes out there and plays the best that they can play, I was pleased with that. (But) it was hard to see the emotions of the kids. I think they saw that they were kind of putting it together — maybe for this year. We’ll see.”

If the Panthers could pick right up where they left off last year, they’d take it.

That’s part of what made last year’s tourney loss so painful. Polytech’s players believe if they won that game, they might have had a chance to make some noise in the tournament.

Cole Garey

The silver lining is that the Panthers return all but one starter from a squad that went 13-6 and made the program’s first DIAA state tourney appearance since 2013. Polytech opens its schedule on Friday by hosting Indian River at 4:15 p.m.

Certainly, falling short last year has left this a pretty motivated group.

Joey Haass

“We’re still thinking about it,” senior first baseman Cole Garey said about the loss to Conrad. “It’s definitely something we all still talk about now and then.

“It (playing in the state tournament) meant a lot. It showed how much we grew as a team over the course of the last couple years. It felt like we achieved something we really wanted to achieve since we were freshmen. … That was a really big deal for all of us.”

“We could have gone far,” said senior Miguel Rivera. “You just know that you could have done so much more. It (the loss) was an awful feeling.”

With eight seniors on the roster, experience shouldn’t be an issue for this year’s Panthers.

Second baseman Carter Chasanov was a first-team All-Stater last spring. Rivera and Garey were both second-team All-Henlopen North picks with pitcher Joey Haass being named to honorable mention.

Miguel Rivera

Other returning starters include junior outfielders T.J. Mitchell and Brendan Davis along with senior catcher Chase Bayley.

“We’re really motivated actually,” said Haass. “We have pretty good expectations, so we’ll see. We have a lot of experience. We’ve all played together for a while.

“We don’t want to look too far ahead and then get ourselves caught up.”

Polytech’s players know they have to be more consistent, especially in big games.

While the Panthers scored in double digits in 10 of their 13 victories last season, they totaled just five runs in their six losses.

Along with being experienced and motivated, Polytech’s seniors are also pretty focused. Four of them are planning to play in college: Chasanov (East Stroudsburg), Haass (Delaware), Rivera (Delaware State) and Garey (Delaware State).

“I hope it takes the pressure off of them,” said Eilers. “They already have plans for next year. Especially for those guys that have been playing varsity since they were freshmen, just relax, have fun and go out and see what happens. That’s kind of the attitude we’re taking.”

Chasanov is one of those seniors who’s been playing varsity since his freshman year. He said it’s amazing how quickly times flies past.

Chasanov’s brother, Conner, was a senior that first season. That year the Panthers missed the state tournament by percentage points despite an 11-7 record.

Like the rest of his teammates, Carter just wants to walk away from the season with a better taste in their mouths than they did after last year’s heartbreaking loss to Conrad.

“That game hurt a lot,” said Chasanov. “We were just in the game the whole time and then for it to end that way. … I’ll always remember that.

“You kind of want to help your seniors out and make them remember their last year in high school. It kind of hurt that we couldn’t fulfill that.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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