Sports Zone, Springfield

Colts baseball dominates – again

SPRINGFIELD – If there was a Midwestern League dictionary, the definition for “dominance” would surely read: “Thurston baseball.” After a series sweep over No. 10 Crater last week, the Colts clinched their sixth straight league title, and have won 48 straight league games dating back to the 2022 season.

“It’s pretty cool. I mean, we have high expectations, right? When we come out here, our goal is first to win a league title, and then to go from there,” said coach Dennis Minium, who’s been at the helm for all six league titles. “But it’s hard to win that many league games in a row without stumbling once, especially playing doubleheaders on Saturdays. It’s pretty incredible to be able to say we’ve won 48 league games in a row.”

The Colts won Game One of the Crater series last Tuesday 8-0, spearheaded by Grady Saunders’ 8 Ks and Eli Crist’s 1 hit, 2 runs, and 4 RBI. Thurston went into Saturday’s doubleheader with a chance to clinch the league title and took care of business, winning the first game 10-3 and the final game 10-0. Saunders had 4 hits, 1 run, and 5 RBI in the final win, and Kyle Miller chipped in 9 Ks and allowed only 2 hits.

“We were really focused. We showed up a little bit early today, got some hitting in on the field, and had a few conversations about winning every inning,” Minium said. “We knew that as long as we didn’t beat ourselves, then we’d be in a pretty good position. If we just take care of ourselves, we’ll be in a good spot, and those are probably two of the better games we played this year.”

Elliott delivers

Senior leadoff hitter Adam Elliott had another sizzling week for Minium, going 8-for-11 across the three games and scoring seven times.

“You get to that point to where, if (Adam) gets out, it’s like, ‘What happened?’ He continuously hits the ball, gets on base, and causes havoc on the base paths. I don’t know if there’s a better leadoff hitter in the state,” Minium said. “Six-for-eight on the day, probably raised his average to .530-ish. And then you follow that up with Brock, and then get into the meat of our order – it’s pretty fun to watch.”

KALLIE HANSEL-TENNES / THE CHRONICLE. Elliott races safely to first base during Thurston’s 10-0 win over Crater.

Junior Connor Molony has been a key contributor for Thurston as well despite the fact that the reigning 5A pitcher of the year has thrown only five pitches all season. Minium said Molony hasn’t been shut down for the season as a pitcher, and that he may be used if his arm is healthy enough in the postseason.

The Colts (21-3 overall) head into the final week of the season with a series against Springfield and a chance to go 18-0 in league play for the second consecutive year. The postseason bracket is scheduled to release Saturday night.

“We just have to keep the edge, and keep the competitiveness. We will do some different things this week in practice to keep us competitive, maybe run some different competitions just to keep that momentum up,” Minium said. “We’ll go into next week, and then we’ll be ready to go for sure.”

Colts softball team falls to No. 4 Crater

The Colts softball team, meanwhile, battled to earn its first league title since 2014 with a series against No. 4 Crater – the back-to-back league champs. Thurston needed to win only one game of the series, but lost the three games 6-3, 16-2, and 9-5.

“I’m proud of them. I told them I’m disappointed for them just because of the situation. I think they put a lot of pressure on themselves today, knowing what was at stake,” Thurston coach Jeff Litle said after the doubleheader loss last Friday. “I tried to keep them at a level keel and not let them get overwhelmed with the situation. But there was a lot on the line today, and to their credit they battled.”

Sophomore Daphanie Heckel slides safely into third during Thurston’s 9-5 loss against No. 4 Crater last Friday. 

After losing the first two games of the series, Game Three was the de facto league title game, and the Colts led 5-4 heading into the 6th inning. The Comets scored 5 runs in the top of the 6th, securing their 3rd straight league title. Daphne Heckel had 3 hits, 2 runs, and 2 RBI for Thurston in the loss.

“I gotta give my kids credit. (Crater)’s Alexis (Perez) has been the pitcher of the year in the league the last two years, and they knocked the crud out of the ball and got her out of the game,” Litle said. “Of course, we wanted to win the league title, but things didn’t fall our way. Hats off to Crater, though; they had a good game plan and we just didn’t get the job done.”

Still, the Colts have all-but-secured second in the league this season after a series sweep over No. 10 Eagle Point in early May. The Colts close out their regular season this week against Springfield.

“We got to make sure that we take care of business against Springfield. We’re definitely not looking past them because they’re much improved from last year,” Litle said. “We’ve got to come out strong against them and make a statement, and get some momentum back going into the playoffs. I think these girls know that there’s still a lot at stake.”



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