Freeman aims to seize opportunity as Plant eyes title

Panthers senior Trey Freeman has made the most of his opportunities this season and is hitting .408 to help Plant reach today’s Class 7A state final four game against Lake Worth Park Vista.

By Jarrett Guthrie, Editor

TAMPA – When an opportunity you desire is offered, you have to seize it with all the strength inside you.

After Plant’s state semifinal appearance last season was pushed late into the night due to weather delays, the Panthers just couldn’t scratch back enough runs, falling to Palm Beach Gardens, 3-2 a little after 2 a.m.

So, as Plant battled through this season, again earning a chance at state championship gold, the remaining Panthers from last year are being presented with an opportunity that is hard to come by – and even harder to fully capture.

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Perhaps the player best prepared to help the Panthers players make this year, their year, was a mere dugout spectator a season ago – senior shortstop Trey Freeman.

Freeman knows a thing or two about seizing opportunity. A part of the Plant program for four seasons, Freeman was given a shot to lock down the left side of the infield early this season, and boy, did he ever.

He comes into today’s Class 7A state semifinal game against Lake Worth Park Vista (22-3-1) leading the Panthers offense with a .408 average, 22 runs scored, 12 RBI and seven doubles. He’s played locked down defense at shortstop, bolstering an already solid squad, and been one of Plant’s smartest Baseball IQ guys for 19-year veteran Plant skipper Dennis Braun.

“Freeman has been one of our smartest players for four years, a hard worker who can play anywhere,” Braun said. “He waited for his time, and when he got it, took advantage and has been our leading hitter, made tons of plays and I couldn’t be happier for him.”

Though the sample-size was small (just eight plate appearances), Freeman did hit .429 last season with a double, two RBI and a run scored. At this point, not playing seems a little distant in the past for Freeman, who is just happy things finally worked out.

“Even in my prior seasons, I didn’t focus too much on playing time,” Freeman said. “I just went to practice, worked hard and tried to get better. It finally started to work out for this year, things usually work out when you work at them.”

Freeman struggled a little out the gate, going 1-for-8 in the Panthers first three games, but then it all clicked as he had at least one hit in nine of Plant’s next 10 games, scoring 10 times.

“There was definitely a little pressure in the beginning of the season, my first time, you know, under the big lights,” Freeman said. “But after the first couple of games it really started to come together for me.”

For Braun it was a bit of a struggle to find chances for him in previous seasons, as the switch-hitting Freeman struggled a bit with consistency from the left-handed batters box. But his senior season, he started to find a rhythm from both sides of the plate.

“He played for us last year, I just wasn’t able to get him a lot of at-bats,” Braun said. “He’s a switch-hitter, and had struggled as a left hander, but this year he’s probably turned into a better lefty hitter, than righty.”

Plant coach Dennis Braun is in his 19th year with the Panthers.

Senior Robert Satin leads the pitching staff, posting an 11-0 record this year with 99 strikeouts and he gets the starting nod in today’s semifinal game. Also, a big bat in the Panthers offense with a .333 average, Satin has 18 RBI and six doubles.

Plant senior ace Robert Satin.

In Braun’s mind, perhaps the biggest moment this season for Freeman came in a mid-April district game against Alonso. It was one of the few moments Satin struggled on the mound, spotting the Ravens a three-run lead in the first two innings. Freeman led off the sixth inning with his only home run of the season, drawing the game to within a run and setting up Rocco DeMarinis (.325, 23 RBI) and Daniel Cerelli to drive in runs and keep Satin’s pitching record unblemished.

“That would have been Satin’s only loss,” Braun said. “That brought us within a run, and he ignited that fire for us.”

Fellow senior Jack Meade has scored 16 runs and has 16 RBI, and Bryce Pelleriti is hitting .348, with 14 runs and 14 RBI, bolstering a strong Panthers offense entering state semifinal play today.

Panthers senior Bryce Pelleriti.

The Santa Fe College signee admitted he is likely headed for the biggest stage of his high school career today, but doesn’t think he’ll make too many adjustments from his work during the rest of the season.

“I’m thinking about quality at-bats out of the gate, making a few plays on defense, and taking a few deep breaths out there,” Freeman said. “Slowing everything down a bit in big spots has been my routine, I just plan on keeping everything the same.”

Plant (20-7) will take on the Cobras from Fort Myers’ Hammond Stadium today at 4 p.m. – a spot in Wednesday’s state final on the line.

Panthers junior third baseman Rocco DeMarinis makes a catch on a pop-up. DeMarinis is another big part of the Panthers success this season with a .325 average, 23 RBI and 20 runs scored. 

Braun feels confident in his squad, and in Freeman feels he has a player experienced in making the most of the occasion offered.

“This is the typical case of a kid who outworked everybody,” Braun said, “and when the opportunity arose, he burst through the door and has seized every moment.”

Freeman and his Plant teammates have a huge chance ahead to bring home the program’s first state title since 1988. The Panthers are behind the door – knock, knock.