New Ink: Panther earns big opportunity

BENTON – Former Benton Panther first baseman Trey Bishop signed a letter of intent to play for the Arkansas Tech (Russellville) Wonder Boys on Monday afternoon at Benton Arena. Bishop was an All-Conference selection for the 22-5 Panthers, which fell in the semifinals of the 6A State Tournament.
“Trey did a heck of a job for us this year,” Benton Coach Mark Balisterri said. “He’s one of those guys that hung in there and kept working hard. He grew a bunch. He was probably 5-10 as a 10th grader. This year he was 6-2, 6-3 maybe. Early in the year he struggled at the plate and he didn’t get down.
“As a matter of fact I DHed (designated hitter) for him a little bit. He stayed positive and had an opportunity to hit again. He had a big day at the plate and it kind of turned his year around. He ended up hitting real well for us this year.”
Bishop saw limited time at the plate early in the season as he was hitting just .100 (2 for 20) the first half of the season. Bishop got a chance against Pine Bluff on April 9, went 3 for 4 with three RBI against the Zebras, and the rest of the season was history. From that point on, Bishop’s bat stuck in the lineup and he finished the last 13 games of the season with a .441 average, including .455 in the South conference. He finished the season with a .315 average, a .424 on-base percentage, 14 RBI and 12 runs scored.
“It’s good to see a kid who stuck with it, had an opportunity to perform on the field and did a great job,” Balisterri said. “I’ve said this before, he’s one of the best first baseman I’ve ever coached, and in saying that, I’ve coached a lot of good first baseman, a bunch that have gone on to play college ball, and he’s right up there with the best of them.
“I’m proud of him, proud he’s going to get the opportunity to play at the next level. I still think his best baseball is ahead of him. He was a late-bloomer and I wish we had him back another year. He was the leader of our infield. He did everything right. He fielded the ball right, he played first base kind of like a kamikaze. He was diving if he had to dive, he ran into traffic if he had to, he just did everything he could to help this team and he did an outstanding job.”
Bishop, who plans to major in physical education, is going to an Arkansas Tech team which finished 32-18, including 18-12 in the Great American Conference, good for third.
“I just really liked the school and a bunch of my buddies are going there,” Bishop started, “so I thought it would be a good place to play baseball and hang out with my friends. [Arkansas Tech] told me I may pitch a little bit in the fall, but said I have to work on my speed and strength.”
Bishop was also the only right-hander on a Benton pitching staff full of lefties. He finished 1-0 with a 3.82 ERA, striking out six in 7.1 innings.
“It’s fun to see a kid who’s worked hard and has an opportunity to play at the next level,” Balisterri said. “A kid that didn’t get to play a lot until his senior year. Some kids would just give in and say it’s not for me. That’s a credit to the great players that have come through Benton. You can be good and not play until your senior year.”