PUEBLO — Finally, the wait is over for Peyton’s baseball program.
The Panthers won the first state championship in the sport in the school’s history, edging Fowler 3-0 in the Class 2A state championship game at Hobbs Field at the Runyon Field Sports Complex.
“One of the things we talked about was (Saturday) was going to be about memories and how did we want to be remembered in 50 years?” Peyton coach Kelly Nickell said. “Now, we will be remembered as state champions.”
The Panthers finished their magical season with a 23-1 record. They beat Wiggins 4-1 in the semifinals Saturday morning and then completed their journey by ousting Fowler.
The Grizzlies, the No. 15 seed in the state tourney, ended the season with a 15-10 record. Fowler upset perennial power Rye 4-2 in the semis. Hurler Johnathan Mobbley threw a complete-game against Rye, allowing eight hits and striking out four.
The hero for the Peyton against Fowler was Rupert Shaw.
The right-handed senior fired a complete-game three-hitter and drove in two runs, powering the Panthers into the school’s history book forever.
“This feels amazing,” the 6-foot, 155-pound Shaw said. “We thought this was coming at the beginning of the year and we just had to work for it, and we did it. This (the state championship game) will be something I will never forget. I had five or six games where I couldn’t hit the ball and then this game, I hit the ball and pitched great.
“The team had great defense behind me. This feels great. I was stunned for the first couple of seconds that we won state, but after that it was just pure bliss.”
Shaw finished with six strikeouts, no walks and one hit batter. He added RBI singles in the fifth and seventh inning.
“Rupert did great,” Nickell said about Shaw, who retired the first 11 batters he faced. “He has pitched well for us all season and pitching carried us again.”
Fellow pitcher and first baseman Rodney Gregg concurred with his coach. Gregg got the win on the mound against Wiggins.
“We were ready for this year and we knew we could do this. and I don’t think there’s a feeling any better,” said Gregg, a senior. “It was great to watch Rupert. That’s why we put him out there for this game. He has the stuff and he can do it. He’s a bulldog and he got the job done.”
A year ago, Peyton was the top seed in the Class 2A state tourney and made it to the finals before falling to Paonia 8-6. The last two years, the Panthers have compiled a 45-3 record.
“There was a lot of pressure after being the favorites last year and they handled it like champs,” Nickell said. “This is amazing to share this moment with these players. Most of them I taught when they were in second grade. This group of kids has been great.”
In the top of the second, Peyton took a 1-0 lead when Brennen Meyers, who reached base on an infield hit, scored on a bunt by Austin Strobel.
Fowler had its best rally in the bottom of the fifth down 1-0. With one-out Luke Bitter was hit by a Shaw pitch in the head. After Zane Denton flew out for the second out, Drew Egan had an infield hit. Following a passed ball, Bitter was on third base and Egan second. Shaw regrouped however, to strikeout Braxton Bates to end the inning.
“Coming in as a No. 15 seed, we played very well last weekend and we just had a lot of growth toward the end of the season,” Fowler coach Mark Lowther said. “This baseball game (against Peyton) was a good game. You never know how you’re going to react after an emotional semifinal win.
“The kids played great against Rye and this was a good game against Peyton,” Lowther added. “Their pitcher threw a good game and we just couldn’t string anything together. (Shaw) kept us off balance. He was slippery. Then when we hit the ball, we hit it to them, and they made plays.”