Barron's Gem Dethrones Royals
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
May 8, 2014, 21:38
Tommy Barron has turned the corner on the mound, resembling the All-District hurler he was last season.
PRINCE GEORGE — There is no denying the confidence inside the Thomas Dale dugout is at an all-time high and with it comes the possibility of something special brewing for a veteran laden team. How else to explain a team maintaining confidence in the midst of a pitching duel which brought a scoreless game into extra innings?
How else to explain the top-of-the-order exhibiting the ability to come up big in the clutch like Nathan Eaton did to lead-off the top of the 8th inning? How else to explain a team which struggled all game long, pushing across five runs the 8th inning against hard-throwing reliever Jackson Rivera?
These Knights have proved over the last few weeks they have both the mental attitude and the fortitude to overcome any obstacle in their way. It's why Eaton's double off the left field fence was just the start of a rally for a Thomas Dale team in search of their eighth-straight win.
Brian Goodwyn followed Eaton's double with an infield single, utilizing his trademark hustle to reach base. And when Prince George manager Mickey Roberts opted to intentionally walk Collin Fleischer, the stage was set for Corey Johnston who laced a 1-2 offering down the left field line to plate two runs.
Yet, the Knights were not finished and would tack on three more runs off the bats of Taylor Trueheart and Maurice Gothe before the inning came to a close. It all added up to Thomas Dale completing the season-sweep of Prince George, halting their five-game winning-streak and continuing their own in impressive fashion with a 5-0 victory.
"We want to beat them when we play them," Thomas Dale manager Chris Marshall said of sweeping the season series. "I can't candy-coat it or anything. We want to beat them, but man, they played well."
But the Knights' (9-3) ninth win of the season started and ended with their starting pitcher who is rounding into the form which made him an All-District hurler last season.
Tommy Barron's complete-game effort was nothing short of dominating. The junior toyed with the Royals' (11-5) lineup all game long with an assortment of fastballs, sliders and change-ups, setting the stage for Thomas Dale's late heroics.
But while Barron's 8-inning, three-strikeout, one-walk and two-hit effort speaks for itself, it was his ability to grow tough when the situation dictated which truly showed the junior is turning a corner. There was the 2nd inning opportunity for the Royals when they had runners on second and third with just one out, but Barron had the answer.
Barron would get ahead in the count against Joey Runion before running a two-seam fastball in on his hands to get a grounder right back to the mound to start a 1-5-2 putout of the runner on third base. Then, Barron would strikeout out Travis Wyatt to end the inning and the threat. He would do the same type of thing in the 4th inning before once again picking up a big punch-out to end the frame.
It was the type of outing where big-time pitchers find a way to win and the junior did just that.
"I feel like I perform well under pressure," Barron explained after his shutout. "It was unbelievable. Probably around the 4th inning, I knew I was going to go far. (Chris) Marshall talked to me in the 7th and I told him I wanted to finish it up."
Added Marshall, "I told him in practice yesterday, 'Tommy, we believe in you and this is your game.' He knows how much this game means to me and he came out here and got it done. He pitched like he did all of last year and that's good news for us."
Corey Johnston's two-RBI single in the 8th inning plated the winning runs for the Knights.
Although even more good news was the production of Johnston in the clean-up spot.
Prince George has elected to intentionally walk Fleischer three separate times during the two games this season, putting the onus on Johnston to come up big in the clutch. And while Johnston has hit well this season to a tune of just under a .500 batting average, he needed to strike fear in opponents. He may have did just that while driving in the go-ahead runs Thursday night.
Johnston went up to the plate with an aggressive demeanor, attacking fastballs over the plate, but just missed them, fouling it straight back on two-consecutive occasions. He wasn't about to miss the third one as he lined it down the left field line for the winning runs, making sure to continue the Knights' battle-until-the-last-out approach.
"I had to overcome a little adversity and I came up big this time," Johnston said of having his teammate intentionally walked. "I knew he was going to give me another fastball and I just looked to hit it out of the infield."
Added Marshall on his team's mental toughness, "They know if they're in the game, they have a chance and they will keep fighting until the chance is gone."
Thomas Dale has done just that, reeling off eight-straight victories while outscoring opponents by a 64-11 margin. Pitching, hitting and defense has led the Knights, but most importantly it's a confidence that is building, making them a dangerous team as the season comes to a close.