Plenty of good days for Panthers
YEATESVILLE — “Let’s have a good day!” It’s a phrase six-year Northside baseball coach Keith Boyd is fond of saying during practice and while it sounds nice, the players know it comes fully wrapped in irony.
“Sometimes at practice he’ll get real fired up and say, ‘Let’s have a good day!,’” said Panthers pitcher Brandon Marsh. “We know when he’s saying ,’Let’s have a good day!’ that it really means, ‘Let’s run!’ and that it’s going to be one of those hard days at practice.”
Thanks to Boyd, those good days at practice added up to a good season as the Panthers flirted with a Four Rivers Conference title for the majority of the year and went on to finish 14-11 and earn their first playoff victory during Boyd’s tenure with the team. The result of that run is that Boyd has been tabbed the Washington Daily News Coach of the year.
Aside from his dedication to fitness at practice, Boyd is dedicated to his players and said that the key to this season was to get his talented athletes to believe in themselves as much as he did.
“We believed in ourselves and that goes a long way,” Boyd said. “As far as the honor I have been given here, you’re only as good as the players around you. These players were very coachable and we had a good coaching staff so everybody is a part of it.”
It takes a crew to sail a boat but the captain is always responsible for the direction. At the start of the 2011 season the compass on Northside’s boat appeared to only point South as the Panthers got off to a rocky 0-12 start which threatened to ruin what Boyd hoped would be a promising season.
Twelve straight losses can potentially devastate any team, but Boyd refused to let the ship sink. The result was a magnificent second half where the team went 8-3 battling against tough Four Rivers Conference opponents to somehow clinch a playoff birth.
However, the always-humble Boyd shifted the credit for his team’s success on to his players faster than the Tampa Bay Rays shift to for power-hitting lefty.
“Going back to last year when we went started 0-12, we had a group of juniors and seniors that helped pull us out of that and coming into this year we had some high expectations and I thought for the most part we fulfilled them,” Boyd said. “(This year) we had some bumps in the road but we had great leadership from our juniors and seniors. We believed in ourselves.”
Aside from his faith in his players, Boyd also believes in the fundamentals of baseball.
“I’m a small-ball guy, especially now with the bats. I think the reduction in the bats plays to my way of thinking,” Boyd said. “I like to get guys on early and bunt them over and set up my lineup to help the RBI guys as best as possible. When you get a dinger that’s great but I’m just a small-ball guy.”
It may be called small-ball, but it led to big things for the Panthers as they topped Mattamuskeet in the first round of the NCHSAA 1-A playoffs to capture Boyd’s first playoff win as coach of the Panthers.
“If you go wins and losses this was the best year I’ve) had,” Boyd said. “We went 14-11 and advanced to the second round of the state playoffs and we did some things that early in the season we set as goals for ourselves.”
Indeed, it was a year filled with plenty of good days.