PREP BASEBALL: Tommies see turnaround in Baseball
Football didn't go so well for Thompson High School last fall, with the Tommies winning just once in eight games. Likewise, basketball was a struggle with the team finishing 3-18.
"It was tough,'' said junior Ryne Dolleslager, a starter on both teams. "I wouldn't say it was fun losing. It was fun being on the teams with a bunch of good guys.
"We know how hard wins are to get. We really cherish them now.''
For the Tommies, the spring has brought a turnaround. Thompson is 10-2 and, after winning the Region 2 baseball tournament last week, is on its way to the North Dakota Class B state tournament for the first time since 2007. Thompson plays defending state champion Beulah at 4:30 p.m. Thursday in a quarterfinal game in Mandan.
Most members of the Tommies' starting lineup were regulars in at least one other sport; several were starters in both football and basketball. They've built off their struggles in the fall and winter.
"We've tried to put that in the past,'' Dolleslager said. "But we also use (football and basketball) as motivation. We didn't want to go through that again. It pushed us to work at getting better.''
The strength of the Tommies is a lineup that has compiled a .371 team batting average. Leading the way are Dolleslager (.538), Brandon Walsh (.476), Skyler Carlson (.462), Calen Schwabe (.361) and Andrew Klegstad (.359).
Tommies coach Ryam Brantl said the defense also has been outstanding. And there has been incentive -- not only from basketball and football, but from baseball from a year ago.
"At midseason last year we were 7-1,'' Brantl said. "Then we wound up going on a slide and going 0-2 in the region tournament. I think that was in the back of the kids' minds. It was incentive, to have a better showing.
"Getting to state was our goal. Our region had a lot of balance. We felt we could do this.''
Grafton returns to state
Thompson is making its first state tournament appearance since 2007. That was the same season that Grafton started a run of seven straight berths in the Class B state tournament. The 18-2 Spoilers meet Minot Ryan at approximately 6:30 p.m. Thursday.
Grafton has been state runner-up each of the past two seasons.
"This is the youngest team I've taken to the state tournament,'' Grafton coach Chad Kliniske said. "We start several sophomores. But this is also one of the highest team batting averages we've had.''
The Spoilers bat .377. Jaime Villarreal (.537 with 5 of the team's 14 home runs), Jess Suda (.528), Brett Longtin (.383), Garek Droog (.382), Zak Hernandez (.370) and Hunter Baldwin (.361) set the pace. Villarreal and Suda are big run producers with 35 and 27 RBI, respectively.
Villarreal is also the pitching ace. The senior right-hander is 7-0 with a 1.03 earned run average, striking out 59 in 34 innings.
"Jaime is one of a handful of really, really good pitchers we've had,'' Kliniske said. "The rest of our guys have all looked really good at times, but they've struggled at other times.''
DeVillers reports on sports. Call him at (701) 780-1128; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1128; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.