Duo helps Thayer nab district title with late
A sure indicator of a successful season for a team is the individual honors and awards that follow in the off season.
This is true of the Thayer Bobcats' baseball squad, as the team finished a highly-productive run through the post-season with a pair of Bobcat regulars being named to the All-State team.
Juniors Aaron Henry and Anthony Martin were honored June 23 for their efforts in leading Thayer to the quarterfinals of the state tournament. Henry was tabbed first team All-State as a designated hitter and utility fielder, while Martin earned All-State honors as an infielder.
Martin also earned All-District and second team All-Ozark honors.
The duo of Henry and Martin was a big part of the reason the Bobcats ended their year with an 18-5 record, district title and berth in the state playoffs, according to Head Coach Matt Pitts. Returning to his alma mater, Pitts took the field as Bobcat skipper in his first year back at Thayer.
"I'd hate to think where we would have been without those two," Pitts said. "Both of them carried a big load, especially pitching-wise, for us."
Both Henry and Martin took the mound for the Cats in state tourney action, Martin doing so after being saddled with tendinitis late in the year.
"Anthony had some elbow trouble midway through the season, but he came back strong," said Pitts. "They meant so much to our team, even offensively."
And offense was where the Bobcats made their mark, especially in the district tournament, as they blasted the tourney field by outscoring their three opponents 50-4 on their way to the district title.
"I thought early in the year we were too picky at the plate, trying to pick out the perfect pitch to hit" said Pitts. "We got beat at Salem 6-3, and their pitcher showed us a curveball early in the count, and we got to guessing what he was going to throw next and we just didn't hit him at all. After that game, we talked about, if it's straight and a fastball where you like it, let's put it in play. And that kicked in about the time the district tournament started."
After dismantling the district field and smashing Valley in the sectional round, the Bobcats came up just a little short to a tough Oran team, falling 9-8, the victims of a late rally that kept Thayer from a date as part of the Class 1 Final Four in Columbia.
"From the get-go, day one of practice, we talked about the final four. At first kids just kind of dream about it, but then we win the district, and win the sectional and the kids really start to believe," Pitts said. "I think that's what made us so tough, even in that last game. That Oran team was tough and we came out and jumped on them. That's also why that loss hurt so bad. I think next year these kids will come out hungry."
The future does look bright for the Bobcats on the diamond next year, despite the loss of three key seniors.
"We lose Carl Hunter, Justin "Taco" White and Dustin Hatterman. They all three fielded positions that going into the year we kind of had question marks on," said Pitts. "Carl played a little bit of everywhere. I guess the only place he didn't play was center field and right field. Taco played a little bit of left field and second base. And Dusty played center field all spring long, and those were all question marks we had. They all three hit over .330, and I couldn't have asked any more out of them. They'll be missed and hard to replace."