Ultimately, the goal for the Thompson High baseball team is to begin their peak when Class 7A area plays begins in April. Thompson head coach Pat Hamrick has no interest in his team easing their way to that point. In fact, he takes the opposite approach.
“I’ve been here 23 years and we play as tough a schedule as anybody in the state, year in and year out, because we’re preparing ourselves for area, which we know is going to be tough,” Hamrick said. “When you go against good competition, you figure it out a lot quicker.”
It’s certainly a fine line between a playoff team and one sitting at home come playoff time, when it comes to Class 7A Area 5 play. Last year, for example, Thompson and Hoover split their first two area games and the Bucs won the tiebreaking game, 1-0. Hoover went on to win the Class 7A championship. Vestavia Hills, the team that Hoover beat in the Class 7A semifinals, split its first two games with Thompson and eased by the Warriors, 4-2, in the tiebreaking game.
“We were within getting a bunt down on first and second, no outs in the fifth with Hoover from them not making the playoffs,” Hamrick said. “They ended up winning the state. Once you get in, anything can happen.”
Getting there is the goal, which is why Hamrick wants to push him team before area play begins.
“Competition is good,” said Hamrick, whose team began the season on Monday against Class 7A runner-up Auburn. “It puts a little pressure on your record, it may not be as great, but hopefully, by the end of the year, you’re ready to peak and starting to play your best baseball. Last year, it happened, we started playing our best baseball in area play. Hopefully, it will start a little bit sooner this year and hopefully the competition will work itself out and we’ll find out who our guys are and we’ll go from there. Baseball is about competing on the field.”
The Warriors have competition for playing time throughout the roster.
On the mound, senior J.C. Parker is the clear-cut No. 1 starter for the third consecutive season.
“You know when he’s on the mound in area play, you have a good chance to win,” Harmrick said. “We have to find others to go with him.”
Seniors Myles Brown and Sam Pearce, who are both experience, are expected to play big roles. Seniors Matthew Walker and Will Morris and junior Andrew South should also be in the mix.
Hamrick said there are question marks in the infield, but there is also talent. Brown, the team’s leading hitter last season, will play in the infield this season, perhaps at second base. Sophomore Carson Hobbs has a shot at playing shortstop. He’s battling Parker and Pearce for the shortstop spot.
Chris Miranda is a returning starter at third base but he’s being pushed by sophomore Sawyer Pate. Junior Will Hoffman, who, along with Pate, has been hitting well in preseason work, could play either first base or third base.
“We may start one lineup and within a week start a different lineup, there is a lot of competition going on,” Hamrick said.
The competition extends to the outfield. Parker could play in the outfield, as could senior Nick Walker, who was an infielder during an injury plagued junior season. Senior Josh Huner, who had shoulder surgery from a football injury, has looked good recently. Junior Nick Freeman, according to Hamrick, is “a really good outfielder, (who) puts a lot of pressure on you, being able to bunt and run.”
Junior A.J. Bonham could also figure into the outfield rotation and senior Brandon Hornkohl is another solid outfielder.
The Warriors return junior Breydon Edmondson as the starter at catcher and he’s backed up by senior Taylor Poskey.
“We have a lot of pieces returning but there is a lot of competition going on,” Hamrick said. “It will iron itself out on the field.”