"We start Aug. 2 in 110 degree heat, so you can't be just satisfied with making it to the first round of the playoffs."
Shinall's squad will have their hands full against a strong Smithville team in a MHSAA Class 1A first-round playoff series. The best-of-three series will be played in its entirety in Smithville today, beginning at 5.
Pine Grove (17-7) ended up finishing second in Division 1-1A to West Union. Smithville won the Division 2-1A title.
"There's no margin for error now," said Shinall, who also coaches baseball at Pine Grove. "I know Smithville's going to be ready. Tradition-wise, they're a strong ballclub.
"We can't make any mistakes against them. In other words, we can't give away any runs."
Shinall inherited a young team from Connie Davis, who was at the helm for the past four seasons.
The Lady Panthers start four freshmen and three sophomores - including third baseman Lacy Blakney, an Alcorn Central transfer. Jacee Hopkins is the lone senior on a team with only three juniors.
"She's been with the program for six years," Shinall said of Hopkins, who leads the team in hitting with a .493 average. "She's our most solid outfielder.
"Offensively last year, her numbers weren't there. We were thinking of how to sub in and sub out for her at the plate. But she did what seniors are supposed to do: She stepped up and was hitting at straight-up .500 for most of the season."
In search of 'pop'
Also hitting well for the Lady Panthers are sophomore Chloe Bailey (.449, five homers, 20 RBIs) and freshman Leslie Hopkins (.419, 11 RBIs, 24 runs).
"She really started swinging the bat," Shinall said of Bailey. "With a young bunch we don't have too many options. We don't have a lot of pop.
"We really need her to extend the field for us: make defenses play deep and actually give us an opportunity to score. We've had base hits turn into fielder's choices at second base because teams didn't have to respect our power."
The Lady Panthers are pretty solid defensively, especially at shortstop with Bryanna Davis, who has tremendous range.
"The starting infield ... is as athletic as I've seen this year," Shinall said.
While Pine Grove certainly has its strengths, it does have some key weaknesses.
"We still make some young mistakes defensively," Shinall said. "We're not really selective with pitches at times."
But with a roster that includes a seventh-grader, seven freshmen and five sophomores, he has a solid foundation.
"We have slowly progressed," Shinall said.
Contact John Wilbert at 678-1572 or email@example.com