Lewis-Palmer's Billy Cook is The Gazette Baseball Peak Performer of the Year

0
Photo - Lewis-Palmer shortstop Billy Cook is the 2017 Peak Performer of the Year in baseball. Cook is pictured Tuesday, June 6, 2017, at Lewis-Palmer High School.  (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)
Lewis-Palmer shortstop Billy Cook is the 2017 Peak Performer of the Year in baseball. Cook is pictured Tuesday, June 6, 2017, at Lewis-Palmer High School. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

Billy Cook's spikes were just big enough to fill the void at Lewis-Palmer.

The Rangers entered the season without Paul Tillotson, who headed to Nebraska after garnering The Gazette Baseball Peak Performer of the Year honor in 2016.

Cook picked up right where Tillotson left off, batting .545 as a senior with 33 RBIs and six home runs. That was two more than Tillotson hit during his last season at Lewis-Palmer.

And like his former teammate, Cook is now the Peak Performer of the Year.

"I just went out there and knew I had to be a leader for the team," Cook said. "So every at bat, every ground ball, I tried to set an example for the younger guys on what they need to do, what their approach should be, and how they should continue to approach the game even as they get older."

Lewis-Palmer coach Brett Lester realized Cook was going to be an outstanding player when he took over the program ahead of the 2016 season.

"(Cook) is also a really good basketball player, so he would show up late to baseball during both seasons I coached there with him and the first day he showed up junior year, after state tournament basketball, watching him move and throw, there was a noticeable difference between him and the other kids, who were very talented," Lester said on the first time he watched Cook play baseball. "Just hearing the other kids and coaches react after he would make a play, you knew you had a player in him from Day 1."

Lester said Cook is "without question" among the top players in Colorado, noting the pair of triples the 6-foot, 170-pound shortstop/outfielder hit in a playoff loss to Silver Creek.

"You could tell teams were having to adjust with the way they pitched to him," Lester said. "A lot of teams don't do that as much in high school ball, but coaches were very aware when he came to the plate."

Although Cook shone once out of Tillotson's shadow, it is not like he was a one-hit wonder. He also steadily improved, batting .269 as a freshman, .421 as a sophomore and .603 as a junior.

That improvement didn't happen by accident.

According to Lester, Cook generally logged a few minutes in the batting cages by the time he teammates showed up for practice. Colleges took note.

Places like BYU, Air Force and Colorado Mesa all took interest. Even UCLA contacted him. But those schools couldn't displace Cook's dream university: Pepperdine.

"First of all, the beautiful campus played a huge role," Cook said on why he chose to become a Wave. "Then when I went there and met the coaches, they were the greatest coaching staff I have ever talked too, better than my high school coaches or anyone I have been in contact with. Then the players, I met them, and they all said they loved (Pepperdine). Before I have even knew about the baseball program and how good they were, the education there is close to Ivy League, not necessarily the same caliber, but smaller school, great teachers and everything else. So, it just really provides all the opportunities I have been looking for in a college."

And heading to Malibu, Calif., the Pepperdine coaching staff doesn't expect Cook to redshirt.

"They said they are going to play the best players and if that's a freshman from Colorado, then that's who they are going to put in," Cook said. "That's really it. I don't know where I will be playing. In the infield or anything. They just said, 'Come out here and we will find a spot for you and we look forward to four years.'"