Sports Zone, Springfield

Thurston baseball perfect in league

SPRINGFIELD – The Thurston Colts baseball team finished a sweep of rival Springfield last week, securing an 18-0 record in the Midwestern League in the process. Thurston already secured its fifth straight league title in its series two weeks ago against Crater, but this year’s team becomes the first to go undefeated in league play.

“League titles are nice because it’s hard to win one and it’s hard to win two, let alone five. We’ve been fortunate enough to have good players, and we play good baseball,” Thurston coach Dennis Minium said. “We’re trending in the right direction, and I think we’re in a good spot going into the playoffs.”

Despite the league success, the state championship has eluded the Colts baseball program up to this point. Even in discussing what it means to win five straight league titles, Minium said the lack of a blue trophy, given to the state champions, is the one thing still missing.

“Ultimately, I’d give up every single one of those (league titles) for a blue trophy. I think it’s within our grasp right now,” he said. “League titles are nice, but at the end of the day, there’s one thing missing and that’s four wins away.”

Something that’s sure to give the team a boost heading into the postseason is the return of Maddox Molony, the reigning Class 5A Player of the Year. Molony hadn’t played in two weeks due to an injury, but made his return during the doubleheader against Springfield on Friday.

“In my opinion, he’s the best player in Class 5A baseball, and maybe even in the state of Oregon,” Minium said. “Having him back in our lineup completely changes our team at the plate, as far as the depth in our lineup.”

On Friday, Molony showed exactly why Minium believes in his talent so much. After a pop fly in his sole at-bat in Game One, Molony stepped up to the plate in the first inning of Game Two and smacked a two-run home run over the Hamlin field wall.

“It feels good, but it was definitely a little surprising,” Molony said afterward. “That first at-bat I lined out, but I felt good so I said let’s see what happens. My second at-bat I got my pitch and the rest is history.”

Molony and Minium embrace after Molony’s home run

Molony only had one other plate appearance in the game, a walk in the second inning, but said he felt good health-wise and the team would play it by ear in terms of him playing shortstop or designated-hitter to start the postseason.

For Molony, a senior, he’s been a part of three league championships now after not having a season his freshman year due to COVID.

“It’s great, and it’s no coincidence. The coaching staff is great, the players are great, and we all work hard. There’s a reason we have five straight,” Molony said. “We’re a family, we love each other, and that’s how we do it.”

This postseason is Molony’s last shot at a state title before he heads to the University of Oregon next year, and he echoed his coaches’ sentiment about the desire to win that elusive title, especially after last year’s defeat, where No. 3 Thurston fell in the quarterfinals to eventual champion No. 11 Crescent Valley.

“There’s no room for error. Last year sucked, and everyone that was part of that can agree. But the best team wins, and I believe we’re the best team,” Molony said. “Every game is a dogfight, everyone wants to be there, and everyone wants to win.”

Freshman Grady Saunders gets a hit in the win over Springfield.

Thurston grabbed the No. 2 seed with 24-3 overall record, and hosts No. 15 Hood River Valley on Tuesday. If all the higher seeds win, Thurston’s path to the title game would be: No. 7 Lebanon on Friday, No. 3 Wilsonville next Tuesday, and No. 1 Summit next Saturday. Minium believes the team is headed in the right direction, and this season could be the one.

“I think we all have a common goal,” he said. “Ultimately, it’s the first to four wins, right? So we’re gonna do our best.”



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