Athlete of the Week: Flynn gets hot at right time for CF

Carolina Forest sophomore third baseman Ryan Flynn is a notoriously slow starter but a red-hot finisher.

Fortunately for him, so are the Panthers.

With high hopes for a region and perhaps state championship dancing in the Panthers heads before the season, they came out ice cold with losses to defending state champion Sumter and region rival Conway.

Flynn battled patiently through the personal and team slump, unable to flash the same bat that he used to pound out 15 home runs during his summer travel-team season.

“I did same thing last year as a freshman,” Flynn recalled. “I got called up from JV to varsity about half way  through the season and it took me a while to find my swing.”

Just as Flynn found his footing at the varsity level, the Panthers started to follow suit. They made a surprising run to the Lower State Finals before falling to eventual state champion Sumter.

“Last year was surprising because nobody expected us to do anything,” Flynn said. “We made it all the way to Lower State and it was fun.”

New season, similar story so far for Carolina Forest, which got off to a slow start with region losses to Sumter and Conway. But after a fourth-place finish in the tough IP Classic, the Panthers – and Flynn – began to hit their stride.

Carolina Forest avenged its earlier loss to Sumter, then Flynn and teammate Ryan Elko hit back-to-back homers  in back-to-back games to cap a series sweep of non-region rival Socastee and beat out-of-state power Elizabethton (Tenn.). Subsequent wins over Myrtle Beach and West Florence kept the momentum going.

“I really didn’t start coming around until probably the second Sumter game, but the West Florence game was when my swing started feeling swing better,” Flynn said. “I wish I knew what it was, but you just have to be completely mentally focused to have every part of your swing working.”

That hasn’t been a problem for lately for Flynn, who like the Panthers, seem to be getting hot at just the right time. Following a trip to this week’s S.C. Diamond Invitational, Carolina Forest returns to face must-wins against South Florence and Conway to reach the playoffs.

“We were in the same situation last year where we had to win the last few games to make the playoffs,” Flynn recalled from his freshman year. “We had to turn it on and we made a run in the playoffs.  I think we’re definitely capable of doing the same thing. ”

Now the late-blooming Panthers and Flynn are looking for a repeat performance, sort of.

“Except this time without the loss in Lower State,” he said. “We want to go all the way.”

Photo by Chuck Silvey

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