EUGENE – By most accounts it was a perfect night of baseball for the Thurston Colts. Playing in their home-opener against Class 6A Sheldon at UO’s PK Park stadium – an annual tradition for both schools – the Class 5A Colts cruised to a 9-1 victory in spring-like weather.
While head coach Dennis Minium was proud of the team’s performance, he knows it’s not how a team starts a season that matters most.
“At the end of the day it’s where you finish at the end of the year, right? And obviously, we have one goal, and that’s to be playing on the last day of the year,” Minium said. “We’re gonna go out and play our game, and hopefully at the end, we’re playing on June 3.”
In the Sheldon win, Thurston was led offensively by their returning leaders. Junior Eli Crist, 2nd-team all-state last year, had two different 3-run doubles. Center fielder Adam Elliot, another key returner, had three runs. And Maddox Molony, reigning Class 5A Player of the Year, scored a run. Molony’s a senior now, and will likely be the driving force behind a Thurston title run.
“He’s a great team leader. He knows our system, and he knows how we approach Thurston baseball,” Minium said of Molony. “He goes out and does his job, and he cheers on his teammates. It’s kind of like almost having another coach with us, because he’s so knowledgeable about baseball.”
Molony looks to become the first Thurston baseball player to win two straight Player of the Year awards.
“Hopefully he can continue his run, and maybe try to be back-to-back 5A Player of the Year,” Minium said. “We’ve had player of the year’s, but it’d be nice if we could get Maddox that back-to-back for sure.”
While the vets will be the leaders, the Colts also have five underclassmen who will need to step up when called on. It’s these early season games that will be important for those players’ development.
“I feel like we’ve got some things to work on defensively. Hitting wise, I think we need to be more aggressive early. I think we let some pitches go by that we should be swinging at,” Minium said. “Overall though for the first game, I thought we got some young kids getting the jitters out, and I thought we played relatively well.”
With 10 returners and five underclassmen, Thurston has a blend of talent, leadership, and development. The team is looking to build on last year’s 26-3 record and quarterfinal finish.
“The big thing is we’ve got to stay together as a team. We’ve got a trip to Arizona coming up, so hopefully we can build on our momentum and hopefully ride that a little bit further than we did last year,” Minium said.