Cats hammer their way into state round
They were tell-tale signs.
The look of desperation in the eyes of the opposing pitcher as he worked the ball nervously back-and-forth between his sweaty palms.
The way the fans of the home team pushed closer to the edge of their seats with a sense of anticipation.
You could almost see the seams on the baseball quaking in fear.
No doubt about it, Anthony Martin was digging into the batter's box with a confident grin crossing his face.And as it turned out, the helplessness on the mound, the excitement in the stands and the grim fate of the ball every time Martin had an at-bat in the Class 1 District 4 Baseball Tournament were well founded, as Thayer's big slugger had a monster outing in the tourney, helping the Bobcats claim their second consecutive district title and berth in the state tournament.
Thayer opened its defense of last year's district crown by smashing Eminence 17-3 in the semifinals May 17 before wrapping things up with a 12-0 shutout of the Ellington Whippets in the championship game May 19.
Martin put on a clinic on how to mash a baseball in the tournament, as he went five-for-six in Thayer's two games, including a grand slam, three-run homer, two-run homer, double and single with a staggering 13 runs-batted-in.
He also displayed his prowess on the pitching mound by earning the win over Ellington, tossing a one-hit shutout with seven strikeouts and one hit-batsman.
It was evident from the outset that the Whippets would have a long afternoon against the Cats in the championship finale.
Ellington burnt through two pichers in two-thirds of an inning in the bottom of the first as Thayer torched the Whippet staff for 10 runs in the first, batting around in the frame.
Martin got things started for the Cats in the first with a single that danced down the line at third, plating Aaron Henry (two hits) for the game's first run.
After Ellington starter Derek Brewer gave up a walk to Eric Williams (RBI) with the sacks full, he was pulled in favor of Justin Hoffman after recording just one out.
One out was all Hoffman could manage as all three Thayer hitters he faced logged ribbies.
Dustin Gaines took a walk with the bases loaded to bring Andrew Eckman (two singles, double, RBI) home, and then Ben Martin added a sacrifice fly to deep center that scored Bradley Harper. Next, Eric Veatch stepped up and planted a single into center field that plated Williams and Gaines.This was the extent of Hoffman's stay on the hill, as Richie Brewer was brought in to pitch the remainder of the day for Ellington.
Brewer saw what his fellow hurlers experienced firsthand as John Tollenaar (single, double, two ribbies) smacked a hit that scored Veatch.
But the big blow of the frame belonged to Martin. After jacking a grand slam and two-run shot in the semis against Eminence, Martin took a Brewer offering and deposited it 350-plus feet over the wall in left-center to score three runs, giving the Bobcats a huge 10-zip lead after one.
With Martin in control at the plate and on the mound, this lead proved to be more than enough to lift Thayer (20-4) to a berth in the state tournament.
The Cats added a pair of third-inning runs to finish things off, the first coming on a Tollenaar RBI-double that scored Henry, and the second run came in thanks to a single by Eckman that scored Tollennaar.
In semi-final action, the Cats clobbered Eminence by 14 runs May 17.
For the game, Thayer pounded out 15 hits on the afternoon.