Commodores close in on conference play with momentum

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - It's not how you start—it's about how you finish that matters.

The Gulf Coast baseball team is almost at the halfway point of the season, but the Commodores have shown substantial improvement as the non-conference season nears completion.

Opening the season in Palatka and Bradenton, the Commodores dropped four of their first five games. Beginning February 3, the team rebounded to win 12 of their next 14, heading into the final week of non-conference and a Wednesday doubleheader against Grand Rapids with a 13-6 record.

Most encouraging during the streak has been hitting. After a slow start even in games they went on to win (1-0 twice, 2-0 and 2-1 results during this stretch), the bats have turned it around.

"I think our offense has gotten a lot better, which typically happens through the course of a season," head coach Mike Kandler said. "Hitters kind of get locked in and get some timing. Part of it was we got our batting cages back, they did a great job of getting it repaired, so guys were able to get more reps going on, then we found some confidence."

The Commodores combined for 34 runs in their last five games. Stevie Moffatt's .347 average leads the way, with Evan Johnson adding a team-high 5 home runs. Dual threat Brett Wisely has excelled in the box and on the mound, totaling 4 home runs and 14 RBI with a .328 clip, while posting a 1.10 ERA with 37 strikeouts and just two walks in 32.2 innings pitched.

All things considered, non-conference play doesn't matter, but momentum does and the team appears to be trending in the right direction.

"I'd like to think we're gonna be a pretty good offensive club," Kandler added. "I'm not saying we're gonna be the '27 Yankees and break all kinds of scoring records or anything like that, but I think it's a good solid offense and I'd like to say we can maintain that...if not, it's gonna be tough sledding when we get into Conference because obviously you're going to have to score some runs to beat those guys."

Following games against Grand Rapids, the Commodores host Spring Hill for a Monday doubleheader followed by the first Panhandle clash with No. 12 Northwest Florida (18-5) Thursday at 5 p.m.

The Raiders are the only nationally ranked team, but two-time defending champion Chipola (12-9) is receiving votes. Tallahassee (15-8) and Pensacola (13-12) also figure to be formidable foes, all teams facing one another six times.

Wednesday's games against Grand Rapids at Frazier Field are scheduled for 3 and 5 p.m.