Lakeside pitcher Paul Bordon and the rest of the Panther baseball team has heard their critics.
"The talk of the county is we lost a lot," Bordon said.
In truth, they have.
Only two position starters return to the team from last year's squad. Junior outfielder Jeff Rowland, one of Lakeside's best players, transferred to Greenbrier this year.
On top of that, nine seniors from last year's squad were lost to graduation, including top pitcher Sean Harrell, catcher Chris Banker and outfielder Carl Burrow.
What remains for this season's team is plenty of question marks.
As far as Lakeside head coach Jay Matthews is concerned, that's fine.
"It's no big secret we're virtually unknown, but we can play the role of the underdog this season," Matthews said." We've got five to six seniors we look to give us significant success this year."
Although the Panthers might be unknown, 14 of their 16 roster spots are made up of juniors and seniors.
J.C. Huffman, Trey Dove and Bordon highlight a team that many have already counted out. However, Bordon said their critics might be surprised by the level of play the Panthers showcase this year.
"We have a lot of kids who can hit, even some of our juniors who are on the first year on varsity," he said. "I honestly think our unity will bring us success. We expect to go as far as the state tournament, and we're not looking at anything lower than that."
However, to repeat last season's run to the second round of the state tournament won't be easy. In the highly competitive Columbia County ranks, Bordon said the team has nothing to lose, and he knows how to respond to the nay-sayers.
"You don't say anything," he said. "You just have to go out on the field and prove them wrong.
Lakeside will get that chance when the season begins at 6 p.m. Monday when the Panthers play host to South Aiken.
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