Coral Springs Charter: A Smooth Transition
The Coral Springs Charter baseball team has had to deal with change the past couple of seasons, with former manager Jerry Albert moving from the school to Belen Jesuit in Miami, and Athletic Director Mike Higgins taking the reigns for the Panthers.
That transition went smoothly for the Panthers, as they won a district title last season in what many believe is the toughest district in the county. CS Charter then went on to advance to the regional semifinals, where its season ended with a loss to Monsignor Pace.
This season, the Panthers again will be dealing with a transition, although the team is well prepared. Higgins, the team’s manager, announced he will be retiring from coaching after this season to focus on being the athletic director, and he already is grooming his replacement, former Nova standout and Chaminade-Madonna assistant coach Dan Rovetto.
“I want to be a good athletic director, but I love baseball,” said Higgins. “I am going to give everything I have to this team this year, and I believe we have a team that can win again. Dan is a great baseball coach, and I will work together with him to make this transition smooth. We will deal with that transition after the season, but right now it’s going great. Dan’s doing a great job with the fall team, and it’s giving me a great chance to sit back and evaluate the talent we have.”
As for that team Higgins is evaluating, it has been playing well and made a few changes since last year came to a close.
One of the biggest acquisitions for the Panthers in 2013 will be shortstop/second baseman Luis Guillorme, who comes over from district rival Chaminade. At first glance, it looks as though the Guillorme addition will not work, with the Panthers already having one of the top shortstops in the county in returning starter Stephen Kerr. The two players, however, have little concern they can play together in the middle, no matter which plays short.
“We’re used to it,” said Guillorme, when asked about Kerr and himself switching between second and short. “Stephen is one of my best friends, and we’ve spent the past two summers playing together. So this will be no problem.
Higgins suggested that at some point, the Panthers likely will decide on one of the two star infielders to stay at short, but that decision is not weighing on the players.
“As long as we win, it doesn’t matter who plays where,” said Guillorme. “I came here to win a state title, and we’re going to do whatever it takes to get there.”
Although the middle infield appears to be set for 2013, the Panthers will have to replace the BHSB Player of the Year, Colton Rogers, on the mound, at first base and at the plate. Rogers hit .470 and drove in 28 runs for CS Charter last season. He also went 6-1 on the mound with a 0.88 ERA — not exactly numbers that are easy to duplicate.
One way the Panthers are hoping to replace Rogers is with Wyatt Hawes. The pitcher is expected to be CS Charter’s ace, and his presence makes the team believe it can compete with anyone.
“Obviously, getting Wyatt back on the mound is big for us,” said Rovetto. “We anticipate him being our number one guy. He’s a senior that can lead us, that district game guy that is so important in high school baseball these days.”
Behind Hawes, the Panthers will be relying on young arms this year. How far the team can go in the postseason will have much to do with how those young arms mature. The Panthers are coming off a season in which they posted a 2.64 ERA. Overall, departing seniors accounted for more than 117 of the team’s 170 innings pitched last year.
Hawes understands his role is to not only fill some of those crucial innings, but also to lead and is looking forward to the challenge.
“I’m pretty excited,” said Hawes. “I’m a senior this year, and I’m working hard on being a good teammate and a leader.”
When asked about what makes this team different than others in the county, Hawes was quick to answer.
“We work hard,” he said. “We are in the gym at 5:30 in the morning while other teams are sleeping. We go out every day and treat it like its our last day, and that motivation and drive I think will help us get where we want to go.”
Those 5:30 in the morning workouts is something that Rovetto brought with him, a way to make the players not only physically stronger, but mentally as well.
“I like to train these players with a college atmosphere,” said Rovetto. “Coach Higgins and I talked, and he gave me his blessing with the morning workouts, and I think it’s worked great for us so far.”
Offensively, the Panthers not only have to replace Rogers, but also junior Christian Khawly, who transferred along with his brother, Habby, to West Broward. Trevor Kane and Matt Marek also graduated from a team that hit .320.
Higgins mentioned Jorge Solano and Brandon Laboy as players who, along with Guillorme and Kerr, will be counted on to carry the offense.
“We should be able to scratch out some runs this year,” said Higgins. “This district is always going to be tough, but I think we have the offense to complete. Brandon is strong, and the other guys can run and put the ball in play. It’s going to be a fun season.”
One of the obstacles the Panthers will have to overcome is the athleticism of their players. Joe McChrystal, last year’s starting catcher, and Solano, are both playing on the Panthers’ football team this fall, meaning they have not been getting the regular at-bats that other players around the county have enjoyed.
Solano was injured playing football, but is expected to be healthy by the time baseball season rolls around.
The schedule this season will do no favors for the Panthers, and that is exactly how coach Higgins likes it.
“Our goal is always a state title, and we know to achieve that goal we may have to go through some Miami teams,” said Higgins. “So we added a few Miami games in the afternoon, just to prepare our guys for what could come later down the road.”
Much work needs to be done if the Panthers are going to reach the expectations they have set, but nobody inside the locker room has any doubts that a state title could become a reality.
“That’s why I came here,” said Guillorme. “We have what it takes, and now it’s all about execution and getting it done on the field.”