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Phil Campbell's Thomas commits to UNA

For as long as he can remember, Peyton Thomas has envisioned himself as a college baseball player. That vision will soon become a reality.

Thomas, a senior at Phil Campbell High School, has committed to play baseball for the University of North Alabama, choosing the Lions over offers from Wallace-Hanceville and UAH.

“I just felt at home there,” said Thomas, who was named Class 2A Hitter of the Year by the Alabama Sports Writers Association as a junior at PCHS last season. “And I get the chance to play Division One baseball and compete at the highest collegiate level. I’ve always dreamed of getting a scholarship and playing D-One baseball, and in about a year from now it’s gonna come true. I’m real excited.”

UNA, a long-standing member of the Gulf South Conference at the Division II level, will begin a four-year transitional period into Division I in the fall of 2018. The Lions have accepted an invitation to join the Atlantic Sun Conference for all sports except football, which will compete in the Big South.

The 6’1, 200-pound Thomas, a shortstop and ace pitcher for Phil Campbell, said he will sign with UNA as a hitter.

“It’s a good feeling to know that your hard work has paid off,” he said. “And there is definitely more hard work to come, because at the next level everybody is good and everybody is competing for a spot to play.”

Thomas’s big bat and power-patience combo certainly make him a strong candidate to become an impact player for head coach Mike Keehn and the Lions. Over the past three seasons at Phil Campbell, Thomas has smashed 22 home runs and 38 doubles while driving in 105 runs and scoring 120. During that stretch, he’s drawn 83 walks while striking out only 28 times.

Thomas put up his best season to date in 2017, batting .433 with a career-high 12 homers (tied for fourth in the state), 33 RBIs and 48 runs scored in 36 games. More than half (24) of his 45 hits went for extra bases, and he posted an outstanding ratio of 29 walks to just nine strikeouts. He also got hit by a pitch nine times, reaching base at a stellar .585 clip. Thomas went 6-for-12 in four playoff games, helping the Bobcats finish the season with an overall record of 26-10.

Thomas also excelled on the mound for head coach Jonathan Raper last season, finishing 7-1 with a 2.10 ERA and seven complete games in 10 starts. Relying on a mid-80s fastball and a sharp-breaking curve, Thomas struck out 80 batters and walked only 17 in 60.1 innings. Heading into his senior season, he has a career record of 15-3 with three saves, a 1.56 ERA and 158 strikeouts in 126 innings.

After earning All-State honorable mention as a freshman, first-team honors as a sophomore and Hitter of the Year as a junior, Thomas has entertained even bigger goals for his final season at PCHS.

“It would be nice to be Mr. Baseball,” he said this past summer. “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 [in 2017]. 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.”

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