HELENA — Peyton Witham has the reputation of being a hard-worker.

He used that approach in baseball for the Helena American Legion program, and it turned out to be the path to college baseball.

Witham, a senior at Capital High, signed his letter of intent on Friday night at the Helena American Legion Post 2 building to play for Cornell College, an NCAA Division III program in Mount Vernon, Iowa, that competes in the Midwest Conference.

“He’s an extremely hard worker,” Helena Senators coach Jon Burnett said. “He found a school that’s a good fit. He’ll be able to work his way into the baseball team. I know he’s excited about it. We are excited to see him continue to work hard there and see how far he can go.”

Witham has played for the Helena program for three years. He started with the Independents team and then most recently with the Reps last season, when he led the team in innings pitched and wins. Whitman went 7-3 with a 3.38 ERA last season, and struck out 32 in 51 innings.

He’s moving up to the Senators this season, and he’ll be looked at as an important part of the pitching staff.

“He’s a good leader and a good teammate,” Burnett said. “On the baseball field, talent-wise, he’s a very accurate pitcher. He’s knowledgeable. He can pitch backward and hits his spots.”

Witham was discovered through Big Sky Baseball, a fall travel team. The Cornell coaches followed him through the season and liked what they saw at the Arizona Senior Fall Classic.

He was noticed in the academic game of the tournament. Witham is a strong student who plans to study mechanical engineering.

“After getting to know him and family more he was a perfect fit,” Cornell coach Seth Wing said. “His athleticism is what attracted our coaching staff to him and we feel he is just scratching the surface of his ability. After a year of college baseball with our arm care plan and weight room program we feel Peyton will develop into a contributor on the mound early in his college career. We are so excited for him to arrive in the fall and he is going to do very well on the field and in our campus community.”

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Witham had other options at junior colleges and other Division III schools, but the Rams pursued him aggressively and found ways to create a quality financial aid package.

“I started to hear from colleges after the Arizona Classic,” Whitman said. “We scheduled a visit to Cornell, and I really liked it there. The head coach there, I felt I made a connection. I liked the campus and how they do school.”

Classes at Cornell are taught one at a time, four hours a day during an 18-day period before going to the next class. His father, Curt, has family in the area and they spoke highly of the school.

“I hadn’t heard of them before, and I was surprised when they contacted me,” Witham said. “I was really nervous about this before, but now I’m relived and very excited that I know what I’m doing.”

Witham can now focus on the upcoming season. The Senators have two seniors headed to college next season. Middle infielder Matt Krieger previously signed with NCAA Division II University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota.

Winter workouts have already begun for the Senators. Tryouts are in the middle of March with the season beginning in the middle of April.

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