Meet the Panthers
How they got here: Palatka defeated Ponte Vedra Beach Nease 3-1 in the fifth meeting between the teams this season, earning the Panthers their first region final berth since 2001. The Panthers defeated Belleview 4-1 in a region quarterfinal.
Pitching: Panthers senior left-hander Charlie Overturf (7-3) and junior right-hander Brandon Lee (6-2) are expected to pitch in Games 1 and 2. Neither is overpowering, though they will limit their walks. Lee has pitched two three-hitters in the postseason and finished Friday's game with seven strikeouts. Palatka has good depth and a number of options should one need relief. If there's a Game 3, the starter is likely senior right-hander Andy McClain (3-3), who pitched the district title game. Others include Austin Leary (0-0, four saves), Kyle West (5-0) and Chayce Garner (1-0).
Offense: After a slow start, seven starters are batting over .300 in this well-rounded offense that boasts power and speed. Clint Warwick leads with a .390 average, and he had a double against Nease that sparked the comeback.
Defense: The infield is strong despite all four starting at their positions for the first time. Lee plays third base and started last year at second. Trevor Kennedy is solid behind the plate in his third year as a starter. The defense committed one error in three district tournament games, four against Belleview and none against Nease.
Coaching: Matt McCool is in his third season as head coach and has three district titles. His father, Jim McCool, coached the 1975 3A state championship team at former Palatka South. (Side note: Cousin is WWE "diva" Michelle McCool.)
Playoffs vs. Pasco: In 2001, Palatka defeated Pasco 2-1 in a Class 4A region quarterfinal before advancing to the region final. Pasco's Scott DeWitt hit an RBI single to bring in Orlando Rosales for a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. Palatka came back in the fifth when pitcher Marion Knowles knocked in two runs on a hit past shortstop Lee Cruz.
Izzy Gould, Times staff writer
Palatka by the numbers
28 Appearances in the state tournament
5 State titles (1929, '63, '65, '66, '75)
Did you know?
It has had three names in its history (Putnam, Palatka, Palatka South, back to Palatka).
Former Palatka stars
Bryan Jacob: U.S. Olympic weightlifting team member ('92, '96).
Jarvis Williams: Former NFL rookie of the year with Miami and All-American with the University of Florida.
John L. Williams: Two-time NFL Pro Bowl pick and former Florida star.