HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL: Permian southpaws keeping Panthers moving forward

One of the keys for a successful playoff run is pitching and the Permian baseball team has been able to lean on its arms during its current journey.

Having that strong foundation has been helpful for the Panthers and one unique aspect is the number of different looks they present on the mound.

Permian has a trio of left-handers that have become the go-to options in senior Ashton Coats and with juniors Gus McKay and Cooper Golden.

Head coach Tate Criswell said that seeing the three continue to grow has provided a boost for the Panthers.

“They’re all left-handed but they all three bring something different to the table,” Criswell said. “They’ve all brought their A-game this season and have stepped up at different parts of the season and are all big reasons why we’re still playing baseball.”

Coats and McKay have been leaned on as two of the three main starting pitchers and have started Games 1 and 2 in the last two playoff series, against El Paso Socorro and Trophy Club Byron Nelson.

Criswell said that he’s been impressed with how Coats forces weak contact with a variety of pitches.

Permian pitcher Gus McKay (3) throws a pitch to a Midland High batter during a District 2-6A baseball game March 27 at Zachery Field in Midland. (Chris Amaya|Odessa American)

In two playoff starts, he has allowed just four hits and two runs in 10.1 innings.

“I just try and throw strikes,” Coats said. “I’ve also been working a lot on my curveball and good things happen when you’re able to throw strikes.”

For McKay, Criswell noted that his off-speed pitches move well, along with his fastball.

He started the final game of the regular season at Wolfforth Frenship that clinched an outright district title and knows that he can lean on his teammates to step up.

“It’s just about staying confident and believing in my teammates,” McKaysaid. “I believe that we have one of the best defenses in the state of Texas. I just want to let them do what they do.”

The third southpaw, Cooper Golden, made a handful of starts this season but has done most of his work in recent weeks out of the bullpen.

The power-throwing junior has been placed in some pivotal spots including pitching the final 5.2 innings of the district-clinching game against Frenship and the final inning against Byron Nelson Saturday after the Panthers roared back from a six-run deficit.

It’s a role that Golden has embraced.

“It feels good knowing that the coaches trust me to go out there, throw strikes and fill up the zone,” he said.

Criswell added: “Everyone is going to have good starters and being able to use a guy that’s good enough to start in relief has been huge for us.”

Permian pitcher Ashton Coats (3) throws a pitch to a Wolfforth Frenship batter during a District 2-6A baseball game April 27 at McCanlies Field.

The Panthers were able to rally with two big innings in its three-game series against Byron Nelson but now the attention turns to a different challenge.

Up next for Permian is two-time defending champion Southlake Carroll in a Class 6A regional quarterfinal series.

Game 1 is slated for 7:30 p.m. Friday at Pirate Field at Lubbock-Cooper High School in Woodrow. Game 2 is noon Saturday with Game 3 to follow if necessary.

Out of the eight teams remaining in Region I, the Panthers are the only Class 6A team outside of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex still playing.

Criswell said that the pitching will continue to be key against a strong Dragons team and also understands that it will have to improve from last week’s series if they want to keep playing.

“We’ve got a lot of stuff that we need to clean up,” Criswell said. “We didn’t play very well defensively and didn’t as well as we have been in the recent past. Our pitching has kept us in it along with timely hitting.”

“Southlake Carroll is a good program and you don’t win back-to-back state championships without being a good program. We see it as an opportunity.”

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