GC baseball seeking identity
By Pat McCannThe News Herald
PANAMA CITY - At some time during the 2017 Gulf Coast State College baseball season head coach Mike Kandler is going to notch his 700th career win and his 400th victory with the Commodores.
Those are about the only "givens" following a transitional fall season that was predictable for its unpredictability. Even Kandler's milestones are subject to scrutiny, but considering that Gulf Coast was 44-18 last season while gaining a sixth state tournament berth in Kandler's tenure, it's a good bet he'll gain seven wins to reach 700 and net 20 to get to 400 in a Commodores' uniform.
Otherwise, Kandler termed the team tentative during a fall schedule that opened his 12th season at Gulf Coast. The team reconvenes on Jan. 10 and opens its regular season vs. Florida Southwestern in Fort Myers on Jan. 27. The Commodores debut at home on Feb. 2 in the Kevin Miller Tournament.
Kandler said that an attrition rate that sometimes sets in due to grades and homesickness really wasn't a factor, or hasn't been thus far. Sophomore Josh Falk has left the team, but Kandler will wait until Jan. 4 when players report back before completely assessing the 2017 roster.
He'll also be anxious to see how this version of the Commodores seeks its level during the nonconference portion of the schedule.
"We were way too tentative, not aggressive enough," was his Kandler's initial assessment of the fall. "Once the players realized that we did get better as we went."
Finding out where the leadership will come from and how players settle into their roles will impact how team chemistry morphs into an identity that helps define the team.
"In high school most of these guys were just better than the people they were playing against," Kandler said. "Now they are playing against similar and sometimes better talent, so it's always interesting to see how they respond.
"There's a feeling out for the first month or so and then everything settles down. They have to realize that at any point in time they can get a bigger or a smaller role" on the team.
Kandler said that Rutherford graduate Jacquez Koonce had an outstanding fall season once he felt fully recovered from a hamstring injury that ended his high school career last May. Kandler said that right-hander Trever Kilcrease from Arnold threw well every time out and underscored his competitiveness, and Alec Aleywine (Bozeman) was very good fall.
That said, sophomore Alec Wisely (7-1, 3.07 ERA) likely will start out next month as the No. 1 pitcher, left-hander Dylan Cyphert (6-4, 5.71) "has really improved, he was dominant in the fall. And (Jordan) Tylski looked really good at shortstop," Kandler said.
"Those three can be leaders on the field and (Rashard) Ranie had some good moments and (Greg) Loukinen threw well. During nonconference time we're still trying to figure it out then. In the fall they throw two or three innings at a time so that always isn't indicative."
Transfer Austin Krzeminski, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound right-hander also could vie to be the No. 1 starter. Kandler said Krzeminski throws in the low 90s and has a very good breaking ball.
Then again, Loukinen could shelve his relief duties and become a starter and Cyphert could be more effective out of the bullpen than as a starter.
"We're not exactly sure," Kandler said. "I used to think we've got this figured out, but the more you do it in the spring it's a little different. Part of the challenge of coaching is how do I relate to kids to get them better?
"I tell them to control what you can control, so it's important to understand your role. I think it's extremely important
to figure out who you are and then go about your business. There's a certain amount of buy-in."
One noticeable difference this season will be the addition of assistant coach Tyler Younger, who replaces Jerico Weitzel.
"He's very calculated, very methodical," Kandler said of Younger. "He takes a cerebral approach to coaching and thinks his way through things. He's a calming influence where Jerico was more emotional.
"I'm probably somewhere in between."