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Local

Big left-hander powers Panthers’ engine

Cole-fed propulsion

Kenneth Cole doesn't mind being a workhorse. The Erie-Prophetstown pitcher grew up on a farm where hard work is the name of the game.
Kenneth Cole doesn't mind being a workhorse. The Erie-Prophetstown pitcher grew up on a farm where hard work is the name of the game.

His big, strong pitching hand dwarfs the baseball. Erie-Prophetstown's Kenneth Cole looks more like a major league first baseman than a Class 2A high-school pitcher.

The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Erie High School junior looks every bit the farm kid that he is. Hard work has shaped the burly red-headed left-hander.

Cole's family farm has cows, donkeys, geese, goats, horses, mules, pigs and rabbits.

"I have chores every morning," said Cole, who has five siblings – four brothers and a sister. He is the third-oldest. "Haying the animals. That's my job."

Besides baseball, Cole plays basketball and football. He's a post player in basketball and a lineman in football.

"That family works hard," Panthers coach Jason Orman said. " He's worked hard all his life. Sports is probably nothing to him, compared to what he does at home."

Cole already knows what he wants to do with his life.

"I'm big with auto mechanics," he said. "I love working on vehicles. That's what I want to do."

Cole plans on attending the Universal Technical Institute in Glendale Heights after high school.

His pride and joy is his 1977 Chevy Scottsdale pickup that sat in a field at the farm for some 12 years before he brought it back to life.

"It was my uncle's. I offered him $200 for it," Cole said. "It didn't run when I bought it."

A new transmission and engine, new ball joints, tires, some body and electrical work has it nearly complete.

"It's a primer-colored beast," Orman chimed in.

"I'm working on the paint job," Cole responded.

The numbers speak loudly for the soft-spoken big man. Through Wednesday, Cole was 4-0 on the season with a 1.54 ERA. He was 4-0 with an astounding 0.48 ERA in Three Rivers play.

Overall, in 41 innings, he had 54 strikeouts, allowed just 30 hits and walked 21.

Through Thursday, Cole had helped the Panthers to a 15-9 mark. They entered Friday's game at Bureau Valley with a chance to finish 12-2 in the Three Rivers and tie for the conference title with Morrison.

"I don't think he realizes how good he is yet and how good he can be," Orman said. "That's his personality. When his velocity is good, he's almost unhittable, because he hits spots and has movement on his fastball.

"Then, he pulls the string on a changeup and has a breaking ball with some bite to it. He has command of all three of his pitches. For a high-school kid, that's pretty rare."

As a freshman 2 years ago, Cole watched as his brother Jesse and the rest of the 2011 Panthers placed third in the state.

"I watched every game," Cole said. "I want to be part of that ... going there again, hopefully this year."

King Cole's royal numbers

(Through Wednesday)

Overall: 4-0, 1.54 ERA, 41 IP, 30 H, 21 BB, 54 SO

Conference: 4-0, 0.48 ERA, 29 IP, 15 H, 5 BB, 36 SO

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