Traveling for their final road game of the season May 6 against conference foe, Hinkley (8-15, 4-6 in conference), Thornton baseball (11-9, 5-4 in conference) achieved a goal that hasn’t been met …
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Traveling for their final road game of the season May 6 against conference foe, Hinkley (8-15, 4-6 in conference), Thornton baseball (11-9, 5-4 in conference) achieved a goal that hasn’t been met in 15 years: a winning season.
Third-year Trojans’ manager Jeremy Miller accepted the uphill battle of changing the identity of a program that was 5-13 the year prior to his arrival. However, the hard work and dedication of him and his players over the last three seasons finally came to fruition last Monday.
“I told the guys when I took this job that we have a three-to-five-year turnaround. If you will buy-in, we can make it on the 3-year side,” Miller said with a grin after the victory over Hinkley. “They bought in. These seniors really picked it up this year.”
Jumping out to the 1-0 lead in the second inning, Hinkley scored on a wild-pitch to gather their lone advantage of the contest. Answering back with two in the top half of the third, a 1-out double from Sammy Cabral followed up by an RBI double by Jose Zubia tied it. Later in the frame, Zubia scored on a wild-pitch by Hinkley starter Erick Cruz.
Finding a rhythm on the other side, on the bump, lefty Jered Phelps recorded a 1-2-3 bottom of the third. Allowing just two earned runs in 4 1/3 innings pitched, the crafty hurler found success despite not recording a strikeout.
“He’s our quiet little ace. His MO is not a lot of strikeouts, and it’s obviously not velocity. A lot of movement on his fastballs with his two-seam and four-seam,” Miller said. “He forces guys to put the ball, and it’s a lot on the ground and popups. That’s why he is effective.”
As the ballgame entered the top of the fourth tied at three, the Thornton bats awoke powerfully in the fifth. Scoring seven times on three walks and three hits, Thornton pushed their lead to a comfortable margin.
“It was the third trip through the lineup, and we have seen him before (Cruz). I just reminded them before that inning that the last time we played them (Hinkley), it was the fifth inning, third time through the lineup we finally blew it open,” Miller said. “I told them to be patient, keep their hands back, and that’s what happened.”
As Thornton tallied three more insurance runs in the sixth, the ballgame looked to be all but over with the 13-3 score, but Hinkley didn’t lay down. After a 6-run sixth inning, a monster double-play from right fielder Matt Clark stopped the bleeding to maintain the 4-run lead for Thornton.
To wrap things up in the bottom of the seventh, right-hander Hunter Harris closed the door on Hinkley, stranding two runners on base. As the Trojan’s rushed out of the dugout to celebrate the victory, you could feel something special in the air. It was a long time coming.
“This win here secured our first winning season at Thornton High School in 15 years. This (record) will be our highest finish in EMAC history. It was a special day,” Miller said.
Thornton ended the afternoon with 10 hits as Christopher (JR) William, Zubia and Cabral each recorded two knocks each. William led the team with three RBI’s followed by two from James Young. Carter Wilkins, David Ibanez, Shayne Eggers, Zubia, and Cabral all scored twice.
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