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Sunday, May 28, 2023

Golden ace Laif Palmer leads Demons on quest for Class 4A state title

COLORADO SPRINGS — On a mound on a mountain, Laif Palmer made pitching at elevation look like an art form Friday.

The Golden right-hander dominated Summit in the Demons’ 9-0 win to open the Class 4A state tournament at Cheyenne Mountain High School. Palmer, perhaps the most projectable Colorado prep arm heading into July’s MLB Draft, racked up 11 strikeouts over six shutout innings.

Among the local pitchers who might be drafted — Palmer, Douglas County’s Max Stanley, Eaton’s Tate Smith, Faith Christian’s Carson Jasa and Douglas County’s Hunter Gotschall — Golden’s star has drawn the most interest. In fact, he’s drawn the most interest of any player in the state minus Eaton shortstop Walker Martin, who is ranked as the nation’s No. 41 overall draft prospect by MLB Pipeline.

“He’s the best pitcher in the state,” Golden coach Jackie McBroom said. “And not only is he the best pitcher in the state, he’s going to get a lot better.”

On Friday, Palmer’s repertoire looked equal parts dominating and polished. His fastball ran 93 to 95 mph on both sides of the plate, in conjunction with a sweeper-like slider (82-84) and changeup (83-85). He commanded each pitch while racking up all those Ks, and nearly every Summit hitter was overpowered as the Tigers managed only three hits.

Meanwhile, Golden slugger Noah Wicks led the Demons on offense against Summit, blasting his 15th homer of the year. The three-run jack broke open the game in a five-run fourth inning. The left-handed-hitting catcher now has 39 RBIs and 1.212 slugging, while Demons third baseman Jaydon Hord has nine homers and an .815 slugging.

The 24 homers between Wicks and Hord is the most by any two teammates in the state as the three-hitter Wicks (Hutchinson Community College commit) and cleanup Hord (Santa Barbara Community College), in conjunction with Palmer’s arm, powered Golden’s fourth state tournament appearance over seven seasons under McBroom.

“We feed off of each other’s energy,” Wicks said of Hord. “And then we feed off our team’s energy, because we can feel (their support) from the dugout. We’ve just been helping keep each other on a roll all year long.”

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