When the Johnny Mac Blue Thunder and the Jefferson County Blazers hooked up for the SLABA Junior Varsity championship last week, a trip to the American Amateur Baseball Congress regional in Dallas, Texas, was up for grabs.
The Blue Thunder (16-17, 6-7 SLABA) took advantage of the given opportunity, slamming the Blazers for 24 runs in the first three innings of play en route to a 27-4 thrashing of the Blazers July 21.
Johnny Mac head coach Jim Muskopf knew that despite a 2-0 playoff record, his team’s season would be over with a loss to the Blazers, who would have won the tie-breaker due to head-to-head competition.
“They (the Blazers) were 1-1 and we were 2-0 so we had to win or they would go (to Dallas),” Muskopf told the Call.
“It was one of those things where we peaked at the end of the season. We were determined to go to Dallas.”
Blue Thunder starting pitcher Josh Welch threw just two innings, giving up two earned runs on two hits. Welch also walked two and struck out two as Johnny Mac pounded out 17 runs in those first two innings.
“Josh had pitched a full ball game against them (the Blazers) the last time we played them,” Muskopf said. “It was kind of a thing where they got a double and then a single to scored.”
Muskopf was the first to say that there were many contributors to the team’s win over the Blazers, but two players he pointed out as having solid days at the plate were first baseman Nick McKenzie and catcher Tim Thomas.
McKenzie had a 2-4 performance at the plate, scoring four runs and driving in one run. He is batting .300 with three home runs and 15 runs batted in.
“This was the second game in a row that he played first base for us,” Muskopf said. “He usually plays the outfield or short stop for us. He ended up being on base in four of five at-bats.”
Thomas also had a strong evening at the plate with a 2-3 performance with three runs batted in and two runs scored. The Blue Thunder catcher is carrying a .310 batting average with five runs batted in.
“Tim actually caught the last three innings for us,” Muskopf said. “He’s been a good defensive catcher for us and imp-roved over the course of the season. Tim’s the kind of kid that never says die and is always a hard worker.”
Up next for the Blue Thunder is the AABC South Plains regional in Dallas, Texas, which began Wednesday and ends Saturday.