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Baseball preview: Peyton's lineup will take shape when basketball ends
THREE PLAYERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON
• Reagan Biechler, Pine Creek, senior: At the plate, the Wichita State signee batted .354 with four home runs and 27 RBIs. He was better on the mound, the left-hander went 5-2 with a 1.69 ERA and 64 strikeouts in 41.1 innings.
• Trevor Goldberg, Air Academy, senior: Catcher had hits in nearly half his plate appearances (42-of-85) and led the Kadets’ charge to the 4A state tournament with 35 RBIs.
• Michael Levar, Cheyenne Mountain, senior: Third baseman and pitcher batted .346 last season with five home runs and 21 RBIs and went 3-0 on the mound with two saves and a 1.62 ERA.
March 7: Opening day
March 19: 4A Pikes Peak Athletic Conference season starts
March 25: Coach Bob National Invitational (Phoenix) starts
March 26: 4A Metro League season starts
April 11: 5A Metro League season starts
May 11: Regionals (1A-2A), districts (3A-5A)
May 17-18: State (1A-2A), double elimination (3A-5A)
May 24-25: State (3A-5A)
Peyton’s baseball season might just have to start without Chris Epps and Tyler Lashley.
Don’t worry. They’ll have their chance to make their impact on the diamond when it counts, after they take care of a little business on the basketball court first.
“Some of my better baseball players are the ones who play two or three other sports,” said Panthers baseball coach Kelly Nickell, entering his 12th season. “At a school our size, we need everybody to come out. But that’s the case at a lot of schools like ours, so we’ll have to go along with that.”
Lashley and Epps both started their seasons on the football field. Then onto the basketball court, where each has played an integral role in the Panthers’ 20-2 season and top seed in this weekend’s 2A regional tournament at Fountain Middle School.
And it won’t end after baseball, either. Each competes in track. Epps, a 6-foot-3 junior, was runner-up in the high jump at last season’s 2A state meet.
“I’ve pretty much always been busy,” said Lashley, a junior. “My family pushed me to find things to do. That way, it would keep me out of trouble.”
Lashley, the football team's quarterback, excelled in baseball last season, batting .357 with two home runs and 15 RBIs. He caught, pitched and played in the outfield, too.
“As far as I can remember, I’ve done everything all the time,” Lashley said. “Each sport has its specialty, but the common theme is competition. The competition carries over.”
Epps, who recorded only 20 at-bats last season, ultimately found success as a high jumper, soaring a personal-best 6 feet, 3 inches at the state meet. That was just 1 inch shy of the title.
“I’ve always been an all-around athlete,” Epps said. “I got talked in by Tyler to play football this season, and I enjoyed baseball. Right now, I’d say probably basketball is my favorite right now. But track and baseball are probably even once basketball ends.”
But first things first. Should Peyton’s basketball team advance to the state tournament, its season would extend to March 16 at the latest. Three days later, the Panthers open their baseball season against Harrison. Nickell expects Epps and Lashley to both pitch in the league opener March 23 when rival Evangelical Christian Academy visits Peyton.
“It always takes a few weeks to get into baseball shape,” Lashley said. “We’re all working when we can, getting up early to hit and throw.”
Last year’s senior-laden Panthers went 13-8 in baseball, finishing second to Kiowa in the league race and falling to eventual state-qualifier Limon in the district semifinals.
Even with a late start, Epps and Lashley are hopeful that basketball success will translate into good fortunes on the baseball field.
“As long as we play our game the way we know how, and not let things get in our heads, we’ll be all right,” Epps said. “It’s just like how we’re doing so well in basketball. Everyone has a role and we all have our place. It’s the same in baseball.”