Elmore County coach Wendell Jackson talks with his Panthers during a break in play. The Panthers advanced to the playoffs for the first time during 2013 season
Elmore County coach Wendell Jackson talks with his Panthers during a break in play. The Panthers advanced to the playoffs for the first time during 2013 season

Elmore County finds first playoff berth in years, sets the stage for next season

Published 7:05am Saturday, June 1, 2013

Elmore County baseball coach Wendell Jackson knew that his Panthers were due. At some point, they were going to help him  cure the playoffs drought.

“The kids did a great job,” said Jackson. “Making it to the playoffs was huge. And it sets a good trend for our younger kids especially. I just hope we can keep it going.”

The Panthers, after grinding to a halt in the 2012 season, came into the 2013 campaign expecting to make the playoffs. And they got there by picking up key area wins in a season that needed the final weekend to separate the teams.

“They expected to get in and were a little disappointed when we didn’t win (the area),” said Jackson. “I hate it for the seniors, but you’ve got to start somewhere. And they really set the tone for these young kids.”

The Panthers advanced to the playoffs for the first time in five years and finished second in area play behind Childersburg. For that, Jackson has been named The Wetumpka Herald’s Baseball Coach of the Year.

“This season was a blast from day one until the final day,” Jackson said with a laugh.

Jackson hits the deck after a bang-bang play at third against Wetumpka.
Jackson hits the deck after a bang-bang play at third against Wetumpka.

The Panthers finished the year 15-17, which is appropriate considering they split every Area 6 series until ending the year with a three-game sweep of Dallas County to post a 7-5 mark.

“They practiced hard and did exactly what we asked them to do,” said Jackson. “If you don’t want to be a part of a group like that, something’s got to be wrong with you.”

During the regular season the Panthers notched wins over Oxford and Montgomery’s Lee. Jackson, however, doesn’t take all the credit.

“I’ve got one of the best coaching staffs I’ve ever had the chance to work with,” said Jackson of assistant coaches Kyle Futral, Jason Eason and Todd Watts.

Futral has been at Jackson’s side for the past five years, coaching pitchers and infielders.

“He’s young and energetic and a great athlete,” said Jackson. “He’ll get in there and take batting practice or turn around and take grounders. Having him get out there and show the kids he can do what we’re asking them to do, the kids respect that and will play harder for you.”

Watts has been on staff three years as the squad’s B-team coach and outfield coach. Eason came on this season as the pitching coach.

“Having Jason come on freed Kyle up to work with the infielders regularly and allows me to move around and work with the whole team. This is a great staff and I really am looking forward to next year.”

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