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PC athlete named Times Daily Hitter of the Year
Posted On:
Wednesday, May 24, 2017


Peyton Thomas

for being selected as the

Times Daily Hitter of the Year!

1A-3A Division


Phil Campbell's Thomas named Class 2A Hitter of the Year!

Whenever Peyton Thomas gets the itch to swing a baseball bat, he knows exactly who to call.

“Luke Baker. Any time I need to go hit, Luke is ready to go—without question,” said Thomas, a rising senior at Phil Campbell High School. “He’ll come throw to me for a little while. He’s a good guy. He always says that if I ever make it to the home run derby, he’s gonna be the one throwing to me.”

At the rate Thomas is going, Baker—a 2015 graduate of PCHS—better keep his arm loose. Thomas has essentially been putting on a one-man derby show for the past two years, blasting a total of 21 home runs for the Bobcats as a sophomore and junior. His 12 homers this past season tied him for fourth in the state and drew the attention of the Alabama Sports Writers Association, which on Saturday chose Thomas as the 2017 Class 2A Hitter of the Year.

Fittingly, Baker, who has delivered countless batting-practice pitches to Thomas over the last few years, also got to deliver the good news. Thomas was taking part in a summer showcase at Troy this past weekend when his phone buzzed.

“It was Luke,” said Thomas, who was in the midst of going 5-for-10 with (naturally) a home run in four games at the showcase. “He said, ‘Just in case you haven’t heard, you’re the 2A Hitter of the Year.’ I was like, ‘Really?’ He told me congrats and all that stuff. I was kind of excited. I’m not one to go around and say a whole lot about it, but I was kind of excited and proud of it.”

Thomas prefers to let his bat do the talking, and this season he nearly hit himself hoarse. In addition to slugging those dozen long balls, Thomas led Phil Campbell in batting average (.433), hits (45), doubles (12), RBIs (33), runs scored (48) and on-base percentage (.585). He drew 29 walks and was just as likely to get hit by a pitch (nine times) as he was to strike out (nine times).

Thomas credited his monster season to a refined, more patient approach at the plate.

“Really just trying to use the other field with more power,” he said. “Last year, my sophomore season, I hit nine home runs, and the majority of those were to the pull side. This year, I hit twelve, and I bet it was fifty-fifty to right field and left field, with some to center field, too.

“I would say that’s probably one of the biggest things, just letting the ball get deep. Instead of grounding out to short, you can hit one to the gap or over the fence the other way if you just wait that extra millisecond and let the ball travel.”

Thomas lets the ball travel, all right. Since the start of his freshman season in 2015, he’s sent 22 baseballs packing on a one-way trip to Souvenir City. In his three-year varsity career, he’s also got 38 doubles, 105 RBIs and 120 runs scored, with more than three times as many walks (83) as strikeouts (28).

After earning All-State honorable mention as a freshman, first-team honors as a sophomore and Hitter of the Year as a junior, one wonders what Thomas could possibly have in mind for his final high school season.

“You know, I really don’t know,” said Thomas, a 6’1, 190-pound right-hander who plays shortstop and pitches for the Bobcats. “It would be nice to be Mr. Baseball. But, coming from a smaller school, that’s probably not gonna happen. They usually give that to the bigger-school guys. I don’t know. Jeremiah Jackson [a junior shortstop at St. Luke’s] was 2A Player of the Year. To do something like that would be pretty awesome.

“Anything can happen. You never know. But the ultimate goal would be Mr. Baseball. We’ll see.”

Thomas, who batted second in the lineup for head coach Jonathan Raper in 2017, will have to adjust next year to life without Hayden Copeland, who put together a remarkable senior season in the leadoff spot. Copeland, a 6’5 left-hander, earned second-team All-State honors from the ASWA at first base after batting .415 with 44 hits, 24 RBIs and 46 runs. He reached base at a .579 clip, leading Phil Campbell in walks (37, against only eight strikeouts) and stolen bases (28 in 28 attempts).

“I’d be scared to say there was a better one-two punch at the top of the lineup anywhere in the state, especially at the 2A level,” said Raper, whose team won an area championship and finished 26-10. “That’s just my opinion, and everybody’s got one, but you felt pretty good about those two guys every time up.”

Thomas certainly grew accustomed to batting with Copeland on base somewhere in front of him. Suffice it to say, he didn’t face too many pitchers working from the windup.

“He did a great job getting on base. I don’t know how he did it,” Thomas said. “It seemed like he would draw a walk or slap you a hit every time. Most of the time, it’s different as a hitter when you come up with somebody on base. With him, it was different when he wasn’t on base. He did a fantastic job all year of getting on and jump-starting our whole offense. He took on a big leadership role, too.”

Thomas and Copeland were both honored for their exploits at the plate, but each played a key role on the mound for Phil Campbell as well. Thomas finished the season 7-1 with a 2.10 ERA, going the distance in seven of his 10 starts. He struck out 80 batters, walked only 17 and allowed just 46 hits in 60.1 innings. Copeland also made 10 starts on the mound, going 7-2 with a 3.24 ERA and three complete games. The big lefty struck out 46 batters in 41 innings.

“They’re outstanding young men, and they deserve their awards,” Raper said. “They both had a great year, especially at the plate, but also on the mound and defensively, too. I’m proud for them. They both had outstanding seasons. They did a good job for us, and both of them were good players for us this year. They were hard workers, and they got after it. They deserve all the recognition they’re getting.

“It goes to them, but it goes to their teammates, too. Somebody’s gotta be on base for them to drive in a run, somebody’s gotta help them out. They didn’t do it by themselves.”







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