PUEBLO • Peyton knew this could be a great season.
And despite going further than the Panthers have in 25 years, Peyton left the Runyon Field Sports Complex in Pueblo smarting after getting knocked out of the 2A baseball tournament.
The No. 2 Panthers won 1-0 in the morning over No. 15 Limon to advance to the final eight for the first time since 1992, according to Panthers coach Kelly Nickell, only to watch a disastrous fourth inning knock them out of the postseason against No. 10 Lyons.
To say the fourth was eventful for the Panthers would be an understatement.
In the inning, they committed three errors, saw a pitch that appeared to hit a Lions batter ruled a wild pitch and lead directly to a run, and lost starting pitcher Zach Frantz after he took a comebacker to the ankle.
All told, the Lions sent 11 men to the plate in the fourth, turning a one-run lead into a six-run inning. They rode it to an 8-2 victory and advanced to Saturday’s 2A semifinals.
Frantz tried to pitch through the pain in his ankle, but Nickell said afterward it had “swelled up like a softball.”
The Panthers also lost starting catcher and leadoff hitter Garhett Shaw in the top of the fifth after he was injured behind the plate catching a pitch.
“Against good teams you can’t give them anything, whether it’s walks, errors, because they’re going to take advantage and usually score,” said Nickell, who notched his 200th career win as a coach in the morning.
The Panthers sent three pitchers to the mound in the fourth – Frantz, Tyler Walker and Rupert Shaw. Rupert Shaw was the most effective, setting down the two batters he faced in the fourth to end that fatal inning and setting down the two he faced to start the fifth.
But then he had to switch to catcher when Garhett Shaw left, just another example of an odd game.
Sophomore Rodney Gregg threw a complete-game, one-hit shutout in the opener to help put the Panthers into the second round. The Panthers had made the regionals the previous four seasons, but were eliminated in the first game each time.
“It was a blast getting past that first round with this team,” Gregg said. “This team is unbelievable. ... I don’t think I’ve been on a more fun team.”
Walker, who went 2 for 2 with an RBI and a walk in the loss, summed up the day and the season.
“We were hoping to get a little further for sure,” said the senior. “I definitely expected it (the playoff run). We had a good team, had an amazing year.”
Nickell made sure the team realized what it had accomplished.
“I told the guys, 21-2, we had an exceptional season,” Nickell said. “I couldn’t be more proud of them.”