BUENA VISTA – Logan Nickell does his best work with runners on base. At least he did on Saturday.

The Peyton senior drove in four runs in the first three innings to lead the Class 2A No. 1 Panthers to a 14-4 win over No. 2 Buena Vista.

At this point, it’s tough to argue that the Panthers (12-0 overall) are the heavy favorite to roll through the spring and end the season with a state baseball title.

But even after this win over the Demons (7-4) – perhaps the most significant win of the year thus far – they aren’t getting ahead of themselves. Championships aren’t won on chilly games in April, but these are the moments that certainly contribute to those title hopes when the postseason begins next month.

“We graduated seven guys, but we’ve been telling everyone that we are every team’s No. 1 game,” coach Kelly Nickell said. “We knew that Buena Vista was coming in pumped up and excited and ready to give us their best shot.”

Nickell got the Peyton scoring effort rolling when he blasted an RBII double in the top of the first inning. He drove in two more in the second inning as the Panthers opened up a fast 5-0 lead. They added five more in the third inning, all with two outs, and chased Buena Vista ace Caleb Camp out of the game.

(Dan Mohrmann/ColoradoPreps.com)

“We knew he was a guy that threw hard and he was really around the zone,” Logan Nickell said. “For him to be struggling to throw strikes [was a surprise] and for us to start hitting him when he was throwing strikes [was a surprise]. We’ve struggled hitting and we really found it this game.

Seeing the ace of a quality team and scoring 10 runs off him will boost the confidence of any team, no matter where they sit in either the CHSAANow.com Coaches Poll or the 2A Selection and Seeding Index.

“We’re feeling pretty good,” Coach Nickell said. “We have to clean up some defensive mistakes, but that’s the exciting thing is that we’re only getting better from here on out.”

This was a game that meant a lot to the Demons considering that it was the Panthers who got the 3-2 win in last year’s 2A state tournament to advance to the semifinals. The 14-4 outcome likely won’t hold up if these two teams see each other again later in the year.

Freshman Bryce Love got his fourth win of the season, going 5 and 1/3 innings along the way. Up 14-4 in the bottom of the sixth, the Panthers turned to Toby Redmond to close things out. He struck out Edgardo Cubero-Villanueva and Otto Rizzi to end the game.

The Demons are looking forward to moving past this outcome and getting back to playing a brand of baseball that has led to their successes this year.

“I told them after the game that I might’ve put a little too much [pressure] on this,” Buena Vista coach Greg Perrin said. “We’re a little too dinged up and when they jump out on us, we didn’t respond well.”

With three games coming up this week, the Demons will put this loss behind them and focus on being a better team in the event they see Peyton again later in the year, when the stakes will be much higher.