It's been a memorable past week or so for Grafton High first baseman Will Thomas. The senior had the biggest hit of his baseball career, a three-run home run that gave the Clippers a 5-2 win over York and a share of the Bay Rivers District title with the Falcons and Warhill.
A few days later, he was selected to the All-Bay Rivers District second team. The latest high point is his commitment to play next year for St. Augustine (N.C.) College.
Thomas inked a scholarship that will pay almost 90 percent of his expenses to play for the Division II CIAA school. Thomas batted .392 this season for the Clippers, with 23 RBI.
Grafton JV unbeaten
Thomas is one of six senior starters, plus pitcher Lane Thomas (9-0 and no relation to Will), that the Clippers lose off of this year's team. Before weeping to loudly for the program, consider that coach Tom Sweeney's junior varsity team went 20-0.
It's noteworthy that the Clippers were able to continue their dominance of Bay Rivers foes even after freshman Evan Sperling was called up at midseason to bolster the varsity pitching staff. Sperling, who throws in the low-80s, was 5-0 on the JV with a 1.62 ERA and 43 strikeouts in 26 innings pitched.
Mound depth proved key. PJ Jackson went 9-0 with a 1.10 ERA, striking out 67 in 51 innings. Ricks Dearing (4-0, 1.97 ERA) took over for Sperling on a staff whose resume included seven shutouts and four no-hitters.
Jordan Sprouse proved a good receiver for the hurlers, allowing nary a passed ball this season, Sweeney said. Sprouse did fine with the stick, too, batting .468 with 19 RBI in 15 games, before being called up to the varsity.
Other standout hitters were Skyler Robinson (.472 avg.), Ryan Hiser (.464 avg., 18 RBI, 13 walks, .600 OBP) and Spencer Brown (.400 avg., 22 runs, 18 RBI). Hiser had 24 stolen bases for the aggressive Clippers, who were safe on 97 of 99 steal attempts.
The defense's improvement was also key as the Clippers committed just 22 errors in 20 games: fewer than half the 2011 team's total. It all added up to a scoring margin of 193-44 for the season.
"This was a great group of kids and it was a pleasure to coach them," Sweeney said. "They had a great work ethic and let it all hang out on the field."
Hornsby Middle unbeaten too
Hornsby Middle School's baseball team was statistically as dominant as Grafton's JV, outscoring the opposition 122-26 in finishing with a 13-0 record. But it took a great come-from-behind effort to beat Tabb Middle 11-8 in the Bay Rivers District championship game.
Hornsby needed a complete-game pitching effort from Kent Klyman (5-0) to beat Page 3-2 in the semifinals. Hornsby trailed 8-5 in the seventh inning of the title game against Tabb, but rallied with three runs in the seventh to send the contest into extras.
Reeves Trott and Klyman singled, before Griffin Schobel tripled with an out to score two runs. Garrick Colorado, younger brother of Jamestown's all-district varsity catcher Griffin Colorado, tied the game at 8-all with a single.
Noah Scruggs' single, Christopher Jones' RBI double to the fence and Trott's sacrifice fly gave Hornsby its go-ahead runs in the eight. Consecutive singles by Klyman, Michael Schmidt and Schobel accounted for the other run.
Jones, the catcher, picked off a Tabb runner in the eighth. Trott pitched well in the seventh and eight to close out the victory.
Hornsby's defense, led by shortstop Chris Lansford, committed less than half the errors its opponents did this season. Jones (.500 batting average), Trott (.500 avg), Klyman (.471 avg.) and Schobel (.424, 15 RBI) swung the big sticks.