Jun. 11—The expected showdown between two of the top Class 2A high school baseball teams in Colorado never materialized on Thursday at the Rye field.
No. 2-ranked Peyton (13-1), fueled by a nine-run first inning, raced past No. 10 Rye (12-4) 16-5 in a nonleague matchup featuring perennial playoff teams. The Bulldogs, the defending state champions (2019), won their seventh in a row. The Thunderbolts had their 10-game winning streak snapped.
The Panthers sent 15 batters to the plate in the first inning, drew seven walks and had a hit batter. Peyton went on to score runs in every inning. The game was called after five innings due to the 10-run rule.
Rye pitchers walked 12 Peyton hitters and hit four others five innings.
"We told our guys 80% of your walks score. That's exactly what happened," Rye coach Clay Klipfel said. "We just did not have our day today. It's hard to say anything good. When you get behind, it's hard to put things together."
Here are three takeaways from Thursday's game:
With Rye ace Brock Benz on the mound for the home team, expectations were high. But Benz had problems finding the strike zone from the jump. He walked the first three batters and Chance Clamon made him pay with a two-run single.
Following another walk, Brenton Battista hit a sacrifice fly to make it 3-0. Following an Evan Nuemaier single, Benz exited.
Peyton wasn't through. It added six more runs in the half inning that lasted nearly 30 minutes. The inning was so long that even the home plate umpire lost track of the count on the 14th batter.
"They struggled throwing strikes early but we had some big hits," Peyton coach Kelly Nickell said. "I was expecting a much closer game than that. Rye is a better team than that and if we happen to face them next week in the playoffs I know it'll be a different game."
Many of Peyton's baseball players were on the basketball team that reached the Class 2A Final Four, so there's plenty of postseason experience available.
In addition, the Panthers are considered the defending Class 2A champion since the 2020 season wasn't played because of the COVID-19 pandemic. They captured their first state baseball championship in 2019 with a 3-0 victory over Fowler.
Peyton's offense showed its balance on Thursday with 10 hits. All nine starters scored runs with Clamon leading the way with a three-hit, four RBI effort and two runs scored.
"Off the state championship team (2019) we have four or five kids who play. The seniors have played together all their lives along with the juniors," Nickell said. "We're just glad we're playing and there's playoffs. It's been a long 14 or 15 months."
Thankfully for the Thunderbolts, the loss had little impact on their season. They still are in prime position for the playoffs that start next week.
Rye had its momentum of a 10-game winning streak stopped after it had opened the season by losing three of four games.
"In the grand scheme of things the way this year with RPI, honestly playing them at all helped us," Klipfel said. "It's not going to change anything playoff-wise.
"We talked about it, write down what we need to work on. We're going to have a good long practice, go through situations and get ready for playoffs
"We're going to see them again. Whether it's next week of the Final Four, we'll see them again."
The Thunderbolts have won three state baseball titles (2015, 2011, 1960).
Chieftain senior sports reporter Jeff Letofsky can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @jeffletofsky