Freshman steps into large role for Lions

Freshman shortstop Peyton Sockwell exits the field after UNA’s walk-off win against West Georgia Feb. 20. Sockwell has started five games for the Lions.

Peyton Sockwell, a freshman shortstop from Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, is off to a solid start in his UNA career.

Sockwell is exceeding the expectations of many, said UNA coach Mike Keehn. Early in the season, the Gulf South Conference named Sockwell the freshman of the week.

Keehn said Sockwell’s ability to play a high-profile position is impressive.

“The short stop position is the leader of the infield and the defensive alignment,” Keehn said. “It’s definitely a position where you have to be consistent.”

Sockwell said he is thrilled to play as much as he has this early in his collegiate career.

“It’s been awesome getting to see the field as a freshman,” Sockwell said. “There have been a lot of ups and downs already in the season for me. I’ve learned there’s not a lot of leeway for mistakes at the college level.”

The first-year player from Lawrence County (Tennessee) High School led the team in runs batted in and possessed a batting average of .360 his last two years. The Tennessee High School Athletic Association named him part of the all-district team in baseball his junior and senior year.

With a change in the level of pitching and hitting, Sockwell said transitioning from high school baseball to the collegiate level is intimidating at times, but support from the UNA clubhouse has helped.

“All of the guys, especially the upperclassmen, have been nothing short of incredible with teaching and showing me the ropes of how things work here,” Sockwell said. “Having 33 guys behind you picking you up when you’re down and helping you along the way is huge.”

Sockwell’s defensive skills are very smooth, and he enjoys working together in the middle of the diamond, said senior second baseman Kyle Crabtree.

Crabtree said Sockwell is a team player, even when he is not in the game.

“He’s started this season, and (at times) he hasn’t started this season,” Crabtree said. “Yet his attitude hasn’t changed at all, and that speaks volumes to me as a senior.”

Crabtree said he and Sockwell have already formed a bond in the clubhouse.

“Peyton is a great baseball player,” he said. “He has been very coachable, and I’ve been really impressed with him. I love him as a person.”

Keehn said Sockwell stepped up in the Feb. 14 game against Spring Hill. Fielding wise, Sockwell had three putouts and two assists, helping the Lions take home their only win of the series.

“It’s difficult for a freshman to jump in and take charge on the infield,” Keehn said. “But so far, he’s done a quality job.”

Sockwell said he hopes to live up to UNA baseball’s tradition of success.

“All in all, I’m really excited for the rest of this season and for the next four years of playing (baseball) here,” Sockwell said. “It’s an honor and a privilege to get to play here where so many great guys came before.”