Thompson’s season ends in first state tournament appearance since 2015

Published 7:27 am Friday, May 21, 2021

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By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

OXFORD – For the first time since 2015, the Thompson Warriors not only advanced to the state tournament in 2021 but were able to pick up a win on Thursday, May 20, at Oxford’s Choccolocco Park.

After falling into the loser’s bracket thanks to an opening 5-0 loss to bob Jones, the Warriors responded with an 11-6 win against Vestavia Hills to keep their season alive.

They did go on to lose to Hoover 7-1 in the final game of the day to prevent advancing to the final day of the state tournament, but a team with just two seniors, they are taking it as a learning experience rather than a letdown.

“I told them, one team is going home happy. We’re just going home a day earlier than we wanted to,” head coach Kevin Todd said on Thursday afternoon. “But in the end, one team is going away champion and the rest of us will still be chasing next year, so I’m happy with them and what they accomplished.”

It was a remarkable journey for the Warriors, who finished 42-9 this season and had to have some heroics down two runs in the final inning at regionals just to advance to the state tournament.

But with a 7-3 win against Dothan, Thompson did punch its ticket to the state tournament, something that hasn’t happened since many of the current players were in fifth or sixth grade.

“We’ve won 42 games now and nothing has been easy for us,” Todd said. “We’re not that team that can have an off day and win. We have to fight, and those girls have fought all year. We won 42 games and lost nine. It’s just a testament to them and their fight and the way we push them and prepare them.”

Thompson’s fight was put on display early at the state tournament after losing a tough opening game.

Taking on Bob Jones, Eleanor DeBlock had a no-hitter going through three innings and struck out the side in the bottom of the third to give the Warriors a chance early.

But with a stiff wind blowing in from the outfield, Thompson’s bats never could find a rhythm at the plate.

The Warriors put two runners on base in both the first and second inning with one out, but they couldn’t capitalize, as the game remained scoreless through three.

Bob Jones finally got the scoring started with an error to lead off the bottom of the fourth. Then, with two outs on the board, a triple brought home the first run for a 1-0 lead.

An inning later, another error that could have ended the inning eventually led to a run scoring before a two-out single brought home another to give the Patriots a 3-0 lead.

The errors became the difference as Thompson committed another one with two outs in the bottom of the sixth, which was followed by an RBI double and RBI single to bring the game to its final score.

That sent the Warriors into the loser’s bracket needing nothing but wins the rest of the way to have a chance.

And against Vestavia Hills in the first elimination, their fight was on display.

After falling behind 3-0 and 4-2 through two innings, the Warriors scored three runs in the third on a two-run homer from Laney Williams and smart base running from Ella Pate later in the inning after she doubled and eventually scored to make it 5-4 Thompson.

After two scoreless innings, the Rebels came back to tie the game in the sixth inning with a run. Vestavia, however, left two runners on base with one out, keeping the game tied going to the bottom half.

And that’s when the Warriors put together the difference-making inning.

DeBlock had an RBI triple to give them the lead, but that was just the first of six runs in the inning. Williams and Kaylee Cannon both added two-RBI doubles, while Olivia Tindle added an RBI single to make it 11-5.

The Rebels hit a lead-off homer in the top of the seventh, but couldn’t overcome the strong inning from Thompson, as the Warriors stayed alive for one more game.

Williams finished 3-for-3 with four RBIs in the win thanks to a home run and a double, while Cannon had two hits and two RBIs. DeBlock and Tindle both added one hit and one RBI.

That led to a seventh matchup with Hoover this season, but this one was with the season on the line after the two teams split the previous six games with three wins apiece.

Hoover took a 2-0 lead through one inning, which was the difference through the first four innings of play.

Thompson then scored in the top of the fifth on an RBI double from Dailynn Motes, but a hit that looked like it would score two runs to tie the game with one out and a runner still on second ended with a second out and some controversy.

Trying to round third base and come home for the game-tying run, Lindsey Cook ran into the third baseman, who was standing right next to the base, which disrupted her path and led to her getting thrown out at home.

It was a moment Thompson fans and Todd weren’t happy about, feeling she was obstructed by a defender in the base path, but nonetheless, the Warriors still trailed 2-1 going to the bottom of the fifth.

Hoover capitalized on the break and four hits and one walk with two outs on the board to drive home three more runs and take a 5-1 lead. From there, the Warriors couldn’t recover, as the Bucs went on to finish off a 7-1 victory.

Despite the difficult ending to the season, the Warriors only had two seniors and know how valuable the experience of doing something so rare was for a team bringing back most of its top players.

“We’re young and we’re pretty much all coming back next year and were able to come down here,” Todd said. “We were blessed to get here and are hoping to use this good experience to hopefully come back next year and learn from some of the mistakes we made this year.”

Todd said for next year’s team, the sour taste in their mouths going into the offseason and next year may be beneficial.

“We got a taste of it and to go home on a sour note, we need to use that as motivation and fuel and hopefully do something about it and keep working to where it doesn’t happen again next year so we go further,” he said.

He also said he and the team realize just how privileged they were to compete in a state tournament.

“We understand just how blessed and fortunate we were to get here,” he said. ““When you get here, let’s face it, it’s tossing a coin. If you play real well, you have a chance, and now, we kind of know what it takes.”

It did, however, mark the end of the line for both Cook and Cannon, as the two seniors went out helping the team get back to the state tournament, but more importantly, they set an example of exactly the way Todd wants his team to play.

“Just the fight they bring. We know we’re not the most talented team with most of our top talent being younger, but our seniors just showed fight all year,” he said. “Lindsey Cook, you can’t take her out of the lineup because she is a fighter. She wants to fight, she wants to battle and she wants to compete. I think for the most part, that’s exactly what describes her and Kaylee. That was their best trait. That, and they’re great kids. They’re two of the best kids in our school. As far as our other girls getting to look at them, that’s what we want in this program.”