With the start of their high school baseball careers getting closer, the Huntsville Thunder players had one last chance to shine at the 14U level this summer.
They didn’t disappoint, bringing of a state championship over the weekend with an undefeated performance at the Nations Baseball state tournament at Rothwood Baseball Complex in Spring.
The Thunder completed their impressive weekend on Sunday, holding off Pride Double Play of Bryan-College Station 11-9 in the title game.
“Defense,” said Huntsville Thunder manager Terry Molnes of the key to the team’s success. “Defense was there. We had some hot hitters, but everyone hit — and we had timely hits. We'd have the bases loaded, and someone would come up and hit a triple ... but defense was the name of the game.”
The team got off to a scorching start at the tournament, winning both of Saturday’s pool play games to advance to the final day. The Thunder then won their first two contests on Sunday to advance to their championship match with Pride Double Play.
Huntsville jumped out to an early 7-0 lead, but its opponent didn’t go away, fighting back and chipping the advantage. However, with the Thunder up by two runs and in the field when time expired, all they needed to do was finish the inning on top — and they did just that.
“They were batting when time expired, so we had to finish out the inning,” Molnes recalled. “There were two outs and the last batter hit it toward our shortstop. He grabbed it and stepped on second to end the game. It was great.”
Molnes has been coaching some of the players on the team since tee-ball, but it wasn’t until 9U that the Huntsville Thunder completely came together. Along with head coach Greg McGill, Molnes helped begin a select team, and would start competing in USSSA before eventually moving to Nations Baseball.
“When you travel, you see better pitching than what you'll see in league play, and it gets them better for high school,” he said.
The state championship will undoubtedly provide a confidence boost for these players as they prepare for their freshman year. Nine of them are off to Huntsville High in the fall, with two going to New Waverly and one each headed to Trinity and Corrigan-Camden.
Last weekend, though, these soon-to-be high schoolers were happy just to close out their middle school careers on a high note.
“Everybody knew this was kind of the last tournament and wanted to go out with a big bang,” Molnes said. “We made our speeches last night and it got pretty emotional.”