Tournaments | Story | 7/15/2020

South Charlotte Panthers Prided on Pitching and Speed

Brett Greenberg        
Photo: Parker Byrd (Perfect Game)
MARIETTA, Ga. – One of the more intriguing teams participating in this week’s 16U WWBA National Championship event is the South Charlotte Panthers 2022. The Panthers are led by Scotty Clemons, who has been in the Panther organization for over 20 years. This year’s team features 14 players who have committed to colleges and many more who will be committing in the near future. Players have committed to the University of Arkansas, NC State, ECU, UNC, and more. 

The Panthers are currently in their second Perfect Game tournament is as many weeks and look to get over the hump this week and become champions. Unfortunately, they lost in the semifinal game of the 16U Southeast World Series to a great 643 team. Coach Clemons says these two weeks have been difficult but says his team has responded well to the challenges they have faced. 

“The coaches and I are all for it because it gives our players a feel for what college will be like, said Coach Clemons. “Some of these players think they can major in baseball, but college is much more than that. Players need to take care of their bodies. Stretching, staying hydrated and being aware of nutrition are all very important when playing multiple games in a short period of time.”  

As previously mentioned, the Panthers finished one game short of the championship game last week but look to have a chance to compete for a title this week. They are undefeated in pool play and look to carry that momentum into their final pool play game tomorrow before heading to bracket play. When asked about what his coaching staff and players have done to adjust or change since last week, Coach Clemons acknowledged that his coaching staff needs to manage their pitchers more strategically. He said that they ran out of pitching last week but have a plan once they get into bracket play this week. 

“We have been playing great baseball in the last month,” said Coach Clemons. “We need to do a better job of having the correct arms ready at the right time in a game or situation.” 

Coach Clemons went on to speak very highly of his pitching staff, which is full of college commits and players who can throw in the 90’s with their fastball. Luke Schmolke, Michael Forret, Carter Boyd and Brody Fowler are a few of the players Coach Clemons named when speaking about his staff, all of whom are 2022 grads. 

At 13-2 on the year, the Panthers have used their dominating pitching staff to hold opposing teams from scoring over five runs in any game. Coach Clemons was sure to attribute some of the team’s success to Parker Byrd, a class of 2022 East Carolina commit. 

“Parker, in my eyes, is the best on-field leader in the country,” said Coach Clemons. “He brings it every single day, is a spark plug for our team, and is absolutely the best kid I have coached in my twenty years.”

The starting outfield for the Panthers is also a big reason for the team’s success, said Coach Clemons. He says all three run a 6.6 sec 60-yard dash and can make any play in the field. Aiden Evans, Mac Gillespie and Braylen Hayes are all 2022 grads, who will be committing to play college ball very soon. The Panthers defense is also an important piece of the Panther’s success, in which the players take great pride.  

On the offensive side, the team is built on speed. Their lineup is filled with speedy, aggressive base runners who will steal a base as soon as they get on. Coach Clemons also said his team minimizes strikeouts extremely well and puts the ball in play quite often. 

“Our lineup from top to bottom is filled with guys who can walk and then steal two bases right away,” said Coach Clemons. “We also have big hitters who can hit the ball deep in the gap including Walker Jenkins and Garret Michel.”

This team is in their final month of the season and are working to get better in the mental side of the game. At fifteen and sixteen years old, most of these players can be concerned about their performance at the plate and let it affect them the rest of the week. The coaching staff emphasizes that they can’t let that happen mentally. 

“I want our players to understand that they are going to fail more than succeed and that is okay,” said Coach Clemons. “Our players need to be able to overcome a bad at-bat, so they are prepared mentally for their next opportunity.” 

Coach Clemons also believes the lessons he teaches to his players are applicable to the real world. At this age, these players are becoming men on the field and off, so having someone who is educating you on how to handle yourself in all aspects of life is an added bonus. He says baseball and life are all about adversity. 

“We’re trying to teach our players on how to deal with adversity and how to react to it,” said Coach Clemons. “That is the way life is, you might not succeed at first, but it is how to you bounce back.” 

This team was not able to practice on a field for close to two months during the initial Coronavirus pandemic quarantine, so their bats and arms were understandably behind in the first couple of weeks. The team was forced to stay local for the first couple months of the season but that was okay because North Carolina has plenty of good competition. He also mentioned that this is only the team’s second tournament in which they are in the correct age group. For the better first half of the season, the Panthers participated in tournaments in the 17U and 18U age group. 

“We like to play up an age group, so it worked out this year with everything going on,” said Coach Clemons. “As far as our arms, we were putting pitch limits on our guys because they did not have a high school season.” 

As mentioned before, this South Charlotte team is filled with college commits as a 16U team, something of which the coaching staff and players should be very proud. When asked what has allowed them to have so many commits, Coach Clemons made it clear that it is a mixture between the organization and the talent of his players. 

“The South Charlotte organization has been around 20 years, so we have a great relationship with a lot of the college coaches in the Southeast,” said Coach Clemons. “We also just have some big-time players who have been in the organization for a long time.” 

Scotty Clemons and the rest of the South Charlotte Panthers squad is a team that takes great pride in playing the game the right way. The Panthers will look to avenge their semifinal loss last week and become WWBA champions. 

Bracket play of the 2020 16U WWBA National Championship begins Wednesday, June 15th and concludes on Friday, June 17th with the championship game being played at 12:30 p.m. on field 1 at East Cobb.  
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