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Central’s Goodwin is new Panthers baseball coach

Former college assistant coach and current Little Rock Central coach Ronnie Goodwin is the new Cabot Panthers baseball coach.

Goodwin, who played three seasons at the University of Mississippi and was an assistant coach at the University of Central Arkansas for eight years, was hired by the Cabot School Board on Thursday night.

Goodwin, 33, replaces longtime Cabot coach Jay Fitch, who stepped down following the 2013 season. Fitch won more than 200 games during his tenure as Panthers coach.

Goodwin is a 1997 graduate of North Little Rock High School. He played one year at Westark Community College (now the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith) before playing three seasons at Ole Miss. He was drafted by the Florida Marlins in 2001 and played one year of professional ball before taking an assistant’s job at UCA under former coach Doug Clark. He coached only one season at Central after working in the private sector after leaving UCA.

Goodwin said Cabot has excellent facilities, which opened prior to the 2013 season. He also is looking forward to working with athletic director Steve Roberts.

“The direction I see Cabot going in with its baseball program and what they expressed to me that they want baseball to grow in to … I just felt like this was an opportunity that I couldn’t let get away,” Goodwin said Thursday night. “You never know when opportunities like this are going to come up again. So, I’m very excited about it. It was a long, tough process because of the relationships with the coaches and players at Central. When it was all said and done, it was an opportunity that I felt like might not come around again for a few years, if not ever.

“I felt like I needed to take this opportunity and see if I could help that program become what they are telling me they want it to become. I feel like Coach Roberts and the community are going to be very supportive of baseball and get us the resources we need to be the baseball program we can be.”

Goodwin said he thinks Cabot is a “sleeping giant.”

“I feel like it can be a great baseball town if people will buy into it,” he said. “I just hope with me coming in there that there is an excitement about it and a new energy to the program. I’m just ready to see what we can do with it.”

Roberts said Goodwin is an “outstanding person.”

“He has a true passion for young people, helping shape their lives and become productive citizens,” Roberts said. “Those are the qualities that we seek to have in leadership positions in our school district and he fits that to a T. His baseball knowledge and teaching progression is phenomenal. We are very lucky to have him as our head baseball coach.”

Goodwin’s Central squad finished 19-10 this season, advancing to the quarterfinals of the Class 7A state tournament, knocking off Bentonville in the first round before losing to Fayetteville in the second round.

Central played Cabot three times in 2013. The Tigers beat the Panthers in the Red Devil Classic at Jacksonville 3-0 early in the season. Cabot then swept a 7A/6A-Central doubleheader from the Tigers in April, winning 6-5 in 10 innings and 13-11.

Central, which started the conference season 2-4, finished strong, ending at 9-5.

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