Sunday 19 May 2019


Athlete Of The Week: Peyton Howard

PEYTON HOWARD
North Lenoir High School

By ANDREW STEVENS

In the midst of North Lenoir’s run to the 2-A Eastern Finals last season, opportunity came knocking at Peyton Howard’s door.

Despite being soft spoken and measured with his words, Howard is a willing leader on the mound. He was part of a Hawks’ team that finished 20-7 in 2018 and is relying heavily on Howard to lead both on and off the field this season.

Howard is also a captain and defender on North Lenoir’s soccer team. He maintains a 4.16 grade point average, and is a member of the National Honor Society

Howard is this week’s Mt. Olive Pickles High School Athlete of the Week. The High School Athlete of the Week is a partnership between Curtis Media Group and Mt. Olive Pickles to recognize local high school athletes who excel athletically, academically and through service to their community.

The recognized athletes are chosen by the athletic department and administration from their respective high schools.

Howard’s involvement in baseball began at an early age. Now as a senior and team captain, he’s developed into a pitcher and shortstop for the Hawks. Howard relies on a fastball, change up and curveball on the mound.

“I probably started playing baseball when I was five,” Howard said. “I just liked watching the big leaguers play on TV. I’ve gotten more command of my fastball. I’ve started throwing harder, it’s moving more. I can locate it better. My curveball has gotten a lot sharper.”

North Lenoir’s coaching staff entered the 2018 campaign with uncertain expectations for Howard, with senior Quinton Pittman penciled in as the staff’s ace. Howard shattered all preconceived expectations with a 5-2 record and 2.22 earned run average in 14 appearances. He was also an Eastern Carolina 2-A Conference All-Conference selection.

As the pressure mounted and each game grew in magnitude a season ago, there was Howard either getting the start on the mound or recording pivotal outs in relief.

“We didn’t really expect him to be our number two starter last year,” Hawks’ head coach Jackson Massey said. “He pitched in a lot of big time games. He started in the Eastern Finals against Whiteville. Every time we were in a big time game, he either started or closed the game.”

North Lenoir returns eight seniors and six juniors, all motivated to build off their success from last season, but eager to erase the sting of coming up one round shy of the state finals. Massey is fully aware of the value of having an unquestioned leader like Howard on the mound, who is fully accustomed to big games.

“He’s taken his role last year, and last year he was one of the guys,” Massey said. “This year, he is the guy. He hasn’t really skipped a beat with it as far his participation in the weight room, his participation in workouts and practice. He always gives us a chance to win. He is our workhorse and he is going to carry this team pitching wise. It’s really nice when one of your best players is one of your hardest workers as well.”

Howard intends to continue his baseball career at William Peace University and study Exercise Science.

“I really like the location with the school being in Raleigh,” Howard said. “They play in the USA baseball complex, which is a really nice play to play for a Division III school. I really like sports, and I just wanted to stay in that field with physical therapy, and focus on that.”

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