It doesn’t get bigger than the state championship series in high school baseball.
Payton Lemons was there, did that. The senior Hokes Bluff pitcher did so as a rookie. Although he won the loss, he gave the Eagles a chance to win. He made six innings allowing four hits, two runs and one walk while striking out seven in a 2-1 loss to Andalucia in 2018. He also won some big playoff games on the road to Montgomery.
“He’s just got a way of competing and keeping the team in the game,” Hokes Bluff coach Mike Robertson said. “He’s won half of our games this year. … He may give up a point or two earlier, but he still seems to settle down and do a good job.”
Lemons are known to be calm and composed on the mound. One of the main reasons is to start this big game at the start of his college career.
“If you can pitch in a situation like this with pretty much your entire city behind you, going back and pitching in front of them seems like an easy task,” Lemons said. “With all the confidence from the guys that I threw in a game like this, it also helps that they know I’m going to go out there and come out for them.”
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From there he continued to increase his speed and become a better pitcher.
“He works hard in the weight room,” said Robertson. “He got a lot bigger and stronger. He worked really hard, especially the last two years.”
Lemons enjoys hitting weights, running and working his lower body. But he also trains in unconventional ways.
“I started (boxing and skipping rope) my first year,” he says. “I have a punching bag and a set of skipping rope. I love it. It helped my agility and hand-eye coordination. It really is. I still love it to this day.”
Another thing Lemons has worked on is becoming a leader in the locker room. He’s naturally a calm guy, so that’s been an adjustment.
“I generally lead by what I do; show them the right way, don’t tell them, ”Lemons said. “Personally, I would say it’s been tough this year for my class, especially because we’ve always been guys who listened to the older ones. We really tried to be more vocal and show the younger ones what that is. means. Be a leader. “
Lemons is 7-2 with an ERA of 1.65. He struck out 109 runs, walked 24 and allowed 13 earned runs in 55 innings.
The Eagles (14-7) will play Winfield on Friday in the first round of the Class 3A playoffs.
Lemons, who signed with the University of Alabama at Huntsville, hopes to extend his time in the Eagles uniform a little longer.
“(Signing up) has taken the burden off me knowing my future is on hold, but I still have a lot of plans and a lot of unfinished business to do here,” he said.
As with all baseball careers, Lemons’ will end someday. Even if he hopes it’s a long time away, he might have something to fall back on.
“I could, honestly,” said Lemons, smiling, on boxing going forward. “If baseball doesn’t work and I’m an old man someday, I might start going to the gym and get back in shape. Who knows.”
Contact Gadsden Times reporter Teddy Couch at [email protected] or via Twitter, @Teddy_Couch.