Published: May 10, 2014
After four innings, it appeared the 2A district final between the Black Forest League's Kiowa and Peyton was going to be decided by an error.
It was in the fifth inning when that crucial error showed up, which allowed Kiowa to win tournament bragging rights. Kiowa (14-5) went on to beat Peyton (16-5) 1-0 Saturday at Spurgeon Field in Memorial Park.
The Indians advanced to the district championship game after defeating Evangelical Christian Academy 5-2, followed by Peyton's advance to the finals with a 6-1 win over Calhan.
Peyton coach Kelly Nickell said since the last time the teams met in a split doubleheader, the Panthers' freshman starters have developed well. However, both teams were without key starters in their rematch at districts.
"Our leading hitter broke his collarbone shortly after the last time we played them," Nickell said. "He hasn't been back since."
Peyton put up its first hit in the top of the fifth with Isaac Coover moving into scoring position on an error in right field. Coover was left stranded.
Deja vu for the Indians with Maclain Smiley in scoring position and Zek Ross behind him with no outs. Two batters later, an error at shortstop helped Smiley score from third for a 1-0 Kiowa lead.
Through four innings, Kiowa pitcher Smiley's mound numbers were perfect while Peyton's Evan Finley wasn't very far behind him, aided by a double play in the bottom of the first.
"I have to do my job and throw strikes and help my fielders make plays," Smiley, a junior, said of the pitchers' duel. "Our defense was amazing today."
Finley shared that clock-in, clock-out mentality saying the pressure was on the whole team and not just him on the bump.
"I'm just doing my job. You can't ask for more than that from a pitcher," the sophomore said.
Things heated up in the bottom of the fourth with Kiowa having two base runners, Steven Mizak and Caleb Smith, with no outs. However, after two fly outs, Smith was caught off the bag at second.
"I'm a pretty mentally tough guy," Finley said. "I've had a few pressure situations on me before. I'm used to it. I just let the game come to me and not force anything."
It was three up, three down in both halves of the sixth, putting all the pressure on Peyton in the top of the seventh to stay alive. Finley opened up with a single but that's all the Panthers' lineup could muster.
Both teams advance to the regional playoffs in Pueblo. Nickell likes the odds of a Black Forest League team taking the whole thing.
"We have just as good a chance as anyone out there," he said. "There's really no team to beat this year. It's pretty much wide open."