Thayer crushes tourney field 50-4 on way to state playoffs
Within walking distance of the baseball diamond at Thayer High School is a set of very busy train tracks.
After the way the Bobcats played in the Class 1 District 4 Tournament at Thayer, it seems fitting these tracks are there.
Pouring the coals to a finely-tuned offensive engine, the Bobcats drove a locomotive-sized hole straight through the middle of the tourney field, outscoring their three opponents by a combined score of 50-4, on their way to a district title and berth in the state playoffs.
To underscore this point, one has to only look at Thayer's 17-3 win over Van Buren in the championship game May 20.
While the Bobcats had their way at the plate, cranking out 14 hits, five for extra bases, behind a big day from Dustin Hatterman, Anthony Martin held the Bulldogs in check on the mound.
Hatterman ripped a single and pair of doubles for a game-high five RBIs, while Martin, the Bobcats' big ace, fanned eight Van Buren batters, giving up two walks and seven hits on the way to a five-inning victory.
Pitching for the first time in nearly a month after battling tendinitis in his arm, Martin gave up three hits in the first inning before finding his groove.
"I was a little concerned about him early, but I've seen Anthony all year," said Bobcat Head Coach Matt Pitts. "The longer he goes, the better he gets. I'd say his arm seems to be OK."
Martin gave up a pair of walked-in runs in the third and an RBI-double in the fifth after the game's outcome had already been decided, in an otherwise impressive return to the mound.
Thayer cranked up the offense early in the contest, plating six runs in the home-half of the first inning, to take control of the game.
Andrew Eckman posted Thayer's first ribbie on the day with a single to right that plated Aaron Henry.
After an infield hit from Carl Hunter loaded the bases, Bradley Harper put a ball into play that was bobbled at short, allowing Martin to score from third.
Hatterman then delivered the big blow of the inning, as he stepped into the box and jacked a double to dead-center that brought in three more runs.
Taco White ended the frame with a hard shot off Van Buren's first baseman, a hit that drove in Thayer's sixth run of the inning.
Up 6-zip heading into the bottom of the second, the Cats slammed the door shut on Van Buren by crossing the plate seven times in the frame.
"We've been kind of up-and-down on offense this year, but we've been on kind of a roll here lately," Pitts said.
John Tollenaar started Thayer's second-inning roll with a solo shot that cleared the 300-foot mark in left and sent Bulldog starter Brandon Helvey to the bench, before Eckman followed two batters later with a triple that posted a run off reliever Daniel Hoskins.
Not to be outdone, Hunter blasted a 350-foot homer that logged a pair of ribbies, before Thayer's next run came via a Van Buren throwing error.
White notched an RBI with a rip to center, and Henry closed the frame for the Bobcats with a fielder's choice that plated a run, boosting Thayer's lead to 13-0.
"We talked about cutting down on our strikeouts. We know pitchers want to use their fastball early in the count to get ahead, and we want to take advantage of that," Pitts said. "We don't want to fall behind in the count and see a lot of curveballs and other stuff."
The Bulldogs posted their first two runs of the game in the top of the third, loading the bases off Martin, before cashing in with back-to-back walks.
The Bobcats got those runs back in the bottom of the frame on RBI-singles from Hatterman and White, staking Thayer to a 15-2 lead.
Thayer's last two runs of the evening came via a pair of fielder's choices by Hunter and Hatterman in the bottom of the fourth, rounding out the Cats' 14-run dismantling of Van Buren.
White logged three hits and three ribbies for the Bobcats, while Hunter posted two singles, one round-tripper and three RBIs. Tollenaar added a solo shot, with Eckman nailing a single, triple and pair of RBIs. Henry finished with a hit and RBI, while Harper posted a hit.
A day after opening the tourney with a 25-zip white-washing of Koshkonong, the Bobcats set down South Iron 8-1 May 18 to advance to the championship game.
Henry took control of the mound for Thayer, fanning 11, while allowing four hits against the Panthers, on his way to the win.