PEYTON • Arguably the best 3A-1A baseball team in the Pikes Peak region has just one blemish on its record.
It’s a blip the Peyton Panthers would certainly like to erase, especially coming from nonconference rival Limon.
But now more than halfway through its season, Peyton was ready for a rematch. And although the wind looked like it would pose a problem, the Panthers had no trouble finding revenge on the Badgers in an 11-1 mercy-rule game on Thursday afternoon.
If the 30 mph winds blowing from first to third base became an issue, coach Kelly Nickell had a plan - but thankfully for Peyton, it wasn’t necessary.
The team was unsure if lefty Rodney Gregg could work through the wind, and had a righty on standby just in case - but Gregg, after giving up one run in the top of the second inning, threw lights out. He struck out seven batters in the remaining four innings, including back-to-back Ks with the bases loaded in the fifth.
“He gets really pumped up, and with Limon being our only loss on the season, he was geared up and excited,” Nickell said. “But once he calmed his nerves, he’s a competitor and he’s going to go out there and battle. To load the bases and then get two strikeouts was huge.”
And although Gregg’s stellar showing on the mound was the defensive highlight on a windy day, the Panthers’ batting order put on a clinic of solid, timely hitting and smart baserunning.
Leadoff hitter Brandon Hussey hit 3 for 3 with a 321-foot two-run home run and scored three times. Peyton’s No. 9 hitter, Austin Hermes, had an equally impressive showing, scoring after all three of his at-bats.
“Hermes is our only senior out there and he had a couple of big hits, and Hussey has been playing really well for us lately,” Nickell said.
Gregg, who hit in the three-hole, was intentionally walked three times by Limon, which backfired on the Badgers in the fifth.
With two outs on the board and two runners on, Limon walked Gregg to bring up Rupert Shaw, who had two strikeouts and a single in his first three at bats. Shaw advanced to first and another run scored on a passed ball to make it 9-1.
“They walked Rodney the last time we played them so Shaw has to take that personal and he’s got to make them pay,” Nickell said.
Peyton’s 10th, and 11th runs, which ended the game due to the 10-run rule, were scored in similar fashion as passed balls.
In the first inning Limon looked to make a statement, smacking a would-be home run nearly 400 feet into the outfield, but the eastern wind pushed the ball foul.
Later on Hussey’s homer, some adjustments helped keep it in play.
“Hussey came up and aimed a little more center to keep it fair, luckily,” Nickell said.
Last time out Peyton struggled with errors and allowed five unearned runs in its 6-3 loss to Limon, but now with nearly three additional weeks of practice the Panthers were ready.
And now with redemption in mercy-rule fashion, Nickell said the win is a whole lot sweeter.