MOUNT JULIET — As a sophomore, Colton Regen lined up against the Mount Juliet seniors for a running workout.

Then they watched his lanky frame fly.

“They said, ‘We didn’t know you were that fast.’ I didn’t really either,” Regen said.

As a senior, his speed and hitting ability have been huge assets for the Golden Bears.

That might confuse some people who know him as the 6-foot-4 right-handed pitcher recruited and signed by Vanderbilt because of his live arm.

But Regen has only thrown six innings this spring.

He felt elbow soreness last year and has adhered to medical orders advising rest and mechanical changes to his throwing motion, which could alleviate pressure to his elbow.

To preserve his arm for college, he’s embracing a different role, one of a utility player thriving in Mount Juliet’s offense, which relies on contact hitting and baserunning — not power — to score runs.

Regen averaged .328 through 25 games with 22 hits and 21 runs scored. He bats second in the order and plays right field.

He went 3 for 4 with two stolen bases in an 8-5 victory over Gallatin on Friday, beating out a chopped ground ball to third base and at one point chasing down a line drive in the outfield.

“I’d be lying to you if I said Colton Regen wasn’t one of the fastest players in the state of Tennessee. I don’t say that lightly. I’m not somebody that’s gonna blow smoke. That kid is consistently running a 6.3, 6.4 60 time,” Mount Juliet coach Zach Tompkins said. “And he’s really impressed us with the bat. I honestly didn’t think he’d be such an important part of our offense this year, but he’s got great ability.”

“We don’t look to get the big power hit,” Tompkins continued. “They happen, but we focus on hunting pitches we can drive and putting a barrel on the ball. We look to steal bases and get the energy going.”

It’s a change of pace, but Regen likes it.

His 17 stolen bases rank third for the Golden Bears, who’ve stolen 146 total this year. Regen guesses his speed comes from his long leg strides.

“My approach is just to make contact. I’m a pretty fast runner. Usually if I get a base hit or a dribbler I’ll be safe,” Regen said. “Even though I haven’t pitched much I’ve played the field and hit the ball really well. I’m not really used to (that), but it’s been a really fun season.”

If anything, Vanderbilt now has a different view of Regen. The Commodores could always toy with the idea of using him as a two-way player.

“Honestly, I do not know (the answer to that). They signed me for pitching. But if I get there and they want me to two-way, I definitely will,” Regen said.

As for his arm, Regen could see time as a short-inning reliever in the playoffs for Mount Juliet (23-5, 11-1 District 9-AAA), Tompkins said, but that all depends on how Regen feels. His health and confidence are top priorities.

Mount Juliet’s pitching staff has been strong enough to minimize Regen’s absence on the mound. Logan Baskin, Austin Hunley and Justin Lee all have sub-1.50 earned-run averages.

Regen does band stretches and rolling exercises to stay loose and throws 45 pitches a week in bullpen settings.

He’s still an electric pitcher. He struck out five batters in two innings against Portland recently.

“He’s got great velocity. He’s got a good breaking ball. You just look at his size and everything he’s got. He’s very projectable. Vanderbilt saw that early. You can’t teach 6-4, 200-something pounds,” Tompkins said. “He’s still the kid Vanderbilt recruited and signed.”

Tyler Palmateer covers high school sports for Main Street Nashville. A graduate of Oklahoma State University, Palmateer spent the past four years covering University of Oklahoma football and serving as sports editor at The Norman Transcript.

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