Raising the bar: Thompson falls in game three of Class 7A semifinals, sets new standard for future

Published 11:11 pm Friday, May 12, 2023

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By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

ALABASTER – Standing in the outfield following a 3-2 season-ending loss to the Vestavia Hills Rebels in the Class 7A semifinals on Friday, May 12, emotions overcame the Thompson Warriors as they started embracing each other with hugs.

Each player walked up to each of their teammates and gave one another a hug, consoling them and thanking them for their effort following one of the best seasons in school history, while the coaching staff did the same.

The heartbreaking moment came after Thompson had won the opening game of the series in run-rule fashion a night earlier by a score of 11-1. Game two, however, was shifted to Friday due to storms after the completion of game one, and the Rebels went on to overcome 2-0 deficit in both the second and third games of the series with three unanswered runs in each to complete the 2-1 series win and advance to the Class 7A championship series. 

“It’s tough,” Thompson head coach Frankie Perez said after. “We didn’t make the plays and they took advantage of it. That’s high school baseball. Sometimes the best team doesn’t win. We didn’t make the plays when it mattered. They came and took from us. I’m disappointed how it ended, I felt like we were the better team, but we didn’t make the plays, plain and simple.”

Through the pain of the loss, however, the aftermath led to several moments of inspiration similar to the scene in the outfield.

After their lengthy post-game embrace, the players walked back toward their dugout to a standing ovation before embracing family and friends with tearful hugs, while Perez gave a heartfelt and passionate speech to the fans that had the majority in tears, saying this year’s team set the standard and they will finish the job for them in the future, while he told them all that he loved them.

It was that passion that helped Thompson go from 19-19 last season to 37 wins and within one of a new school record this season, while the Warriors finished a historic season with a trip to the semifinals and only two losses at home—the final two of the semifinal series.

Perez credited a special senior class for setting a new standard and buying into what he and the coaching staff taught them.

“Thompson baseball is better today than it was 365 days ago,” Perez said. “When I first took this job, we talked about how you have to earn your jersey. This senior class did it. We’re a Final Four team. It came down to the last at bat. We won 37 games, lost eight. Thirty-seven games, lost eight. This senior class should be very proud. We gained the respect of the other teams in our area and around the state.”

In game one of the series, Thompson picked up an 11-1 victory behind four hits from Miles Mitchell with an RBI, a grand slam from Braydon Smith, two hits and two RBIs each from Ethan Crook and Ryan Walker, two hits and an RBI from Peryn Bland and an eight strikeout showing from Landon Alton.

Game two of the series saw the Warriors take a 2-0 lead in the top of the third with a two-RBI hit from Tucker Arrington, but Vestavia responded in the bottom half of the inning with two runs of their own before scoring one in the bottom of the sixth that became the game winner.

In the series finale, the Warriors took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first, but Vestavia cut into that deficit in the top of the third and took the lead for good in the top of the fifth.

“I know this is just going to make us better. It will make me a better man,” Perez said. “I’m proud of how I’m conducting myself right now to be honest because this hurts. It’s the good Lord. It’s the good Lord in my heart. He is going to help me heal, he is going to help these kids heal and he is going to help this community heal.”

Perez said he hopes the players, fans and community realize how proud he is of the team for what they were able to accomplish and made sure they know this is just the start of something special.

“I was praying when I was in the dugout at the end of the game, and I asked him, ‘Please Lord, give me the words to talk to this team,’” Perez said. “I hope these kids understand how much I love them. This senior class did a lot for our program, and they know I love them like my own. They’ll forever be my kids. What they have done for this program is to begin what is to come. Because now, the junior class knows the standard, the sophomore class knows the standard, the freshman class that was here watching knows the standard. I hope they’re as proud as I am because this is just the beginning.”

He said the loss would hurt extremely bad, but he still things Thompson is primed success soon.

“I still believe we are going to win a state championship here in the near future,” he said. “This one is going to hurt, it’s going to hurt bad. I don’t know if I’m going to get over this one, but I’ll need to be better because I have three kids, my awesome wife Stephanie and my dad at home. In a positive way, they get to have papi, their son and their husband back home. I wish it was after one more week of the season, but I will be strong for them and our players will be strong as well.”

That, however, didn’t stop Perez from reflecting and looking ahead at what is being built at Thompson.

“Our slogan this year was RTM, Road To May. I wanted them to experience playing baseball in May,” he said. “Well, guess what, they did it. We played the first week of May against Bob Jones, that was electric, and the second week of May, I talked to people in the community and they have never seen this place so packed up. So, we played in May. Now, we need to come up with a new one for next year now that we’ve played in May.”