COLORADO SPRINGS - Jeremy Gwinn's off-season conditioning program already is paying dividends for himself and the Woodland Park High School baseball team.
The lanky 6-foot-4 right-hander used an 85 mph fastball and array of off speed pitches to keep Colorado Springs Christian School batter off balance during an 8-1 Panthers season-opening victory on March 7. The ace struck out eight batters, walked three and allowed just singles in five solid innings of work.
“I felt okay,” said Gwinn, who threw 82 pitches in the game played at El Pomar Youth Sports Complex. “I walked too many batters, though. I need to work on that.”
Gwinn got into his only trouble in the bottom of the fourth. Leadoff hitter Jarrett McDonald reached first base on a Cody Hedges error at shortstop. He later came around to score on a double steal.
“I was very pleased with the Jeremy threw,” said Woodland Park coach Cliff Richardson. “He had good command of his pitches and he went after the hitters.”
Richardson plans on setting up his rotation to have Gwinn pitch the team's biggest games.
“He's going to see a lot of good hitters and he's going to be relied upon against those good teams,” Richardson said.
Gwinn's battery mate, senior catcher Evan Lays, paced the offense by going 2 for 2 with two walks and two RBIs. He also scored two runs and stole a base. Lays also pitched the sixth inning, striking out one, walking one and allowing a hit while throwing 12 pitches.
Batting behind Lays in the cleanup hole was junior Logan Watters (2 for 4 with two runs and three stolen bases).
“I've pretty much batted cleanup my whole life,” Watters said. “I'm pretty confident there.”
The downside to batting fourth, according to Gwinn, is not seeing his favorite pitches.
“I'm not seeing a lot of fastballs,” he said. “Pitchers are throwing me breaking balls. That's okay as long as I can stay back and not get on my front foot.”
Woodland Park banged out eight hits as a team. Hedges, batting in the leadoff spot, went 1 for 3 with a walk, two runs and two stolen bases. Junior second baseman Chase Fish hit ninth and was 2 for 3 with a sun scored and two stolen bases.
The Panthers stole 10 bases in all. Junior third baseman Kayden Osborn also had two steals.
As well as Woodland Park played, both coaches and players felt they were a little rusty coming out of the gate.
“We weren't too aggressive at the plate,” Watters said. “We watched a lot of good pitches go by.”
Woodland Park was also a sloppy on defense, committing a pair of errors.
“That's probably because we haven't been outside much because of the weather,” Richardson said. “Most of our throwing has been in the gym.
“We by no means played a complete game.”
The Panthers have a busy schedule for the next two weeks. They hosted Falcon on March 12 (weather permitting) and travel to Sand Creek today, Skyline in Longmont on Friday and Canon City on Saturday. Woodland Park is not scheduled to play another home game until April 5 against Mitchell.