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Prep baseball: Freeman's arm, bat bolster Lone Peak's title contender credentials

Published May 15, 2017 10:20 pm

Prep baseball • Senior leads Lone Peak into playoffs.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Highland • The Lone Peak baseball team, especially the seniors, is eager to start another run at a state championship after the last two campaigns fell short.

The Knights will need to rely on that core group of seniors, especially those on the pitching staff, if they're going to realize that dream.

Right-hander Payton Freeman is one of those who will be leaned on heavily.

He was 6-1 last season and finished with the same mark during this year's regular season.

Even in the one loss to top rival American Fork, Freeman never stopped working. After the Knights gave up five runs and the lead in the second inning, he bore down. He retired the side in order in three of the remaining four innings, and the only runner who got on after the second reached on an infield single.

Besides that, Freeman belted a single to right field to open the seventh inning. He represented the tying run, but he was left stranded. He drove in a run with a double to center-right earlier in the contest.

"Payton is a talented, talented player," Lone Peak coach Matt Bezzant said.

"He's a little unorthodox in the way he plays, but he has all of the five tools of baseball — he hits for contact, hits for power, throws with velocity, throws with accuracy and runs like a deer."

Freeman has been a machine at the plate for the Knights over the last two seasons. He finished the 2016 season with 59 RBIs and scored 34 runs. He has 31 RBIs to lead the roster and scored 22 runs this year. He has hit above .450 in both campaigns.

"He's a pretty good competitor," Bezzant said. "No moment's too big for him, and that's part of why he's had such success.

"He's a great kid, too, and well liked by everybody. He's kind of a free spirit who has fun, and we need more of that around here. He doesn't take anything too seriously and enjoys playing and being his age."

Close friend and fellow pitcher Seth Corry, who also will be expected to carry a heavy load on the mound, agreed with his coach's assessment.

Freeman is "a great friend. He always wants to do fun stuff," Corry said. "He's super active and always wants to be around other people."

Freeman isn't very vocal, but Bezzant said he's a leader by example in the clubhouse.

"He's really supportive of the guys around him and does everything he can to help the younger kids," Corry said. "If we're struggling, he tries to pump us up. He's a very positive kid all the time."

True to his reputation, Freeman didn't have much to say about himself, but he was very excited to talk about his teammates and why they're doing so well.

"I'd say the first thing is that our whole team has been buddies for a while," he said. "It's a lot easier to play with people you trust.

"When you're pitching, you're going to have off days. It's comforting to know that guys can come in and back you up. Our hitting was a little shaky at the beginning, but it's getting better and better."

Lone Peak, the top seed out of Region 4, will open the postseason at 4 p.m. Tuesday when it hosts West Jordan.

"We want to finish on top, but we don't try to think about it too much," Freeman said. "We've just got to go play. Anything can happen in baseball. You just do your best each day since that's all you can control." —

Class 5A state tournament

Tuesday's first round

All games at 4 p.m.

Pleasant Grove at Cottonwood

Hunter at Fremont

Clearfield at Davis

Jordan at American Fork

Northridge at Layton

West Jordan at Lone Peak

Lehi at Bingham

Syracuse at Roy

Defending champion • American Fork

Five players to watch • Jaxon Knight, Sr., Davis, .600 batting average, 21 runs scored, 26 RBIs, 6-0 record on the mound, 1.99 ERA; Jordan Harrop, Sr., Layton, .507 batting average, 6 runs scored, 23 RBIs, 10 doubles; Hunter Blunt, Sr., Cottonwood, .402 batting average, 24 runs scored, 31 RBIs; Noah Hennings, Jr., Jordan, .429 batting average, 27 runs scored, 23 RBIs, 14 doubles; Seth Corry, Sr., Lone Peak, 7-0 record on the mound, 1.26 ERA, 77 Ks, 25 BBs, 39 IPs, .310 batting average, 24 runs scored, 27 RBIs.

Class 4A state tournament

Tuesday's first round

All games at 4 p.m.

Skyline at Corner Canyon

Ogden at Spanish Fork

Salem Hills at Bountiful

Skyridge at Olympus

Maple Mountain at Box Elder

Orem at Murray

Judge Memorial at Timpanogos

Woods Cross at Springville

Defending champion • Timpanogos

Five players to watch • Tanner Argyle, Sr., Spanish Fork, .583 batting average, 26 runs scored, 11 RBIs, 6 SBs; Conner Ebeling, Jr., Corner Canyon, .483 batting average, 29 runs scored, 16 RBIs, 16 SBs, 2 triples; Brinton Montgomery, Jr. Springville, .437 batting average, 25 runs scored, 26 RBIs, 8 doubles; Kaden Kunz, Sr., Salem Hills, .377 batting average, 21 runs scored, 29 RBIs, 8 doubles; Cy Nielson, So., Spanish Fork, 9-0 record on the mound, 2.48 ERA, 67 Ks, 26 BBs, 42.1 IP, .292 batting average, 19 runs scored, 23 RBIs, 7 doubles.

Class 3A state tournament

State quarterfinals

Thursday at Brent Brown Ballpark in Orem

11 a.m. • Snow Canyon vs. Dixie

1:30 p.m. • Park City vs. Pine View






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