Entering its final two games of the regular season, the Permian baseball team had a chance to accomplish something that had not been done since well before any of the current Panthers were born:
>> Win an outright district championship.
The Panthers did just that with a pair of victories Friday at Wolfforth Frenship to clinch the program’s first district championship since 1974.
Permian also won the title outright in 1966 and shared the district crown with Abilene Cooper in 1989.
“It just feels awesome,” senior first baseman Cade Tschauner said. “It just felt great to say that we finally did it, especially since it had been a long time.”
Tschauner and the rest of the Panthers got a pleasant surprise following practice Monday at McCanlies Field when head coach Tate Criswell presented the team with its championship trophy.
It turned into a ceremony with parents and fans in attendance, including David Byerly, a player on the 1966 title-winning team who spoke briefly to the team about its accomplishment.
“I think this team can go far as their heart will let them,” Byerly said. “They have to believe in themselves. They’ve got the mechanics and the ability and they just need to get out there and do it.”
The first opportunity to do that comes this week as the Panthers open a Class 6A bi-district playoff series against El Paso Socorro.
Game 1 is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at Chris Forbes Field in El Paso before the series shifts to McCanlies Field at noon Saturday for Game 2. Game 3, if necessary, would follow 30 minutes afterwards.
Head coach Tate Criswell said that being able to win an outright District 2-6A title is something that gives his team plenty of confidence heading into the series with the Bulldogs.
“It’s just good to see all these guys that have put a lot of sweat into the program get rewarded for it,” Criswell said. “We preach that we’re all in it together with the same mission and vision and special things can happen.”
That vision came to fruition against Wolfforth Frenship.
The first victory came after the game on April 27 at McCanlies Field was suspended in the sixth inning because of rain and lightning with Permian trailing, 8-6. The teams agreed to finish the game on Friday before the regular-season finale in Wolfforth.
The Panthers rallied to pull even in the seventh before Jake Glasman laid down a squeeze bunt to score Tschauner from third base to earn the win.
Permian went on to defeat Frenship 5-3 in the regularly-scheduled game and Tschauner credited the team for following the message that Criswell and the coaching staff had preached all season.
“The coaches always tell us that we got that game but we need to stay focused on the next game and be ready to win that one,” Tschauner said.
While the focus has been there all season, senior third baseman Aleck Villa said that the Panthers have had extra motivation after its 2020 season was cut short due to COVID-19.
“It pushed us a lot because we have to play like every day is our last day,” Villa said. “You never know when we could be shut down again and it pushed us a lot to work hard and be better.”
The Panthers have put together one of their best seasons in a long time and there is plenty of confidence that they can keep it going past this coming weekend.
Criswell knows that it won’t be easy considering this is the same Socorro team that eliminated Permian in its last postseason appearance back in 2018.
“They’re a team that plays with high energy and they’re scrappy and tough,” Criswell said of the Bulldogs. “They remind me a lot of Odessa High.
“We need to be able to respond when something bad happens and then answer back when they score a run and just focus on the moment and keep momentum in our dugout.”
Follow Tony Venegas on Twitter at @OA_TVenegas