Despite going 10-16 overall with a 6-9 record in St. Louis Amateur Baseball Association play, the Johnny Mac Thunder 16-U baseball team had a lot to prove last week at the Fletcher Baseball Championships in St. Petersburg, Fla.
“Coming down, I don’t think the guys thought that we would do well,” Johnny Mac head coach Nick Palumbo told the Call. “But after the skills competition, I think that got us off on the right foot and gave us the confidence that we needed for pool play.”
The Thunder played like the team Palumbo and his staff always knew it could as Johnny Mac placed third overall at the Fletcher Championships.
“We told the guys all year long that we wanted them to get better throughout the year,” Palumbo said. “We’re a team that has a mix of 15- and 16-year-olds, and we were playing against teams that were entirely made up of 16-year-olds.”
Johnny Mac opened the tournament July 28 with a 9-7 win over the Puerto Rico Braves and immediately followed that victory with a 12-10 win over the Tampa Bay Angels.
The next day, the Thunder rode a three-hitter thrown by starting pitcher Connor Muckler in a 3-1 victory over the Jacksonville (Fla.) Blue Heat.
“Connor had a no-hitter going through five innings,” Palumbo said. “He really fought throughout the game to save our bullpen.”
On July 30, Johnny Mac posted a 10-10 tie with the Titans Baseball Club to win their pool. The Thunder then defeated the Florida Bombers Blue Sox 6-2 to win the first round of the playoffs.
Johnny Mac’s first loss of the tournament came Saturday in a 10-2 defeat to the Puerto Rico Astros in the semifinal game.
That loss put the Thunder in the consolation bracket, where it fell to the BigStix Gamers of Georgia 10-0.
Palumbo was pleased with his team’s effort at the Fletcher Baseball Championships bolstered by the play of Eric Hegger, Sean Kennedy and Tommy Laughlin.
Hegger plays left field for the Thunder and was batting .253 with 16 RBIs before the start of the Fletcher Championships.
“Eric came out and shifted outfield positions and didn’t let that affect him at all,” Palumbo said. “He was consistently hitting the ball all week long.”
Catcher and left fielder Sean Kennedy also had a good week in Florida.
“Sean was really our guy that picked up the pieces with runners on,” Palumbo said. “He really helped set the table for everyone else.”
Shortstop Tommy Laughlin batted .529 for the tournament, which was well above his .295 batting average for the season.
“Tommy ended up hitting over .500 for the week and had some key hits for us,” Palumbo said. “He did everything to keep the rallies going for us.”
Palumbo was also happy with the play of pitchers T.J. McCoy and Joe Strege.
“Both Joe and T.J ended up throwing complete games for us,” he said. “They got the big outs for us when we needed them to.”