Twice the Little Falls Flyers faced the defending Class 2A state champions St. Cloud Cathedral.
Twice Luke Thoma got the call.
Twice the senior pitcher helped the Flyers to victory.
That’s been the case all season for Thoma, who entered Friday’s opening round of the Section 6-2A playoffs with a 7-0 record and two saves in 10 appearances this season.
“He’s pitched every big game for us,” said Flyers head coach John Hanowski. “Every important game he has pitched in. He pitched against Albany, Pierz, Cathedral twice and Perham. Perham has only lost once since we beat them at the beginning of the year. He’s pitched in every game that was a big game for us.”
Class 2A’s top-ranked Flyers (19-1) have been in a few big games, but few were as big as their 6-0 win over Cathedral May 19, which sealed the Granite Ridge Conference title for them.
“He has three pitches (curve, change up and fastball) and he keeps the ball down and attacks the strike zone. He shut out Cathedral, but he only struck out one. He induces a lot of ground balls and keeps people off balance to get easier outs,” Hanowskis aidl
“When he hits his spots he’s hard to hit. He gets his fastball moving and darting and the curve is there.”
In 49.3 innings pitched, Thoma owns a 2.12 ERA with 45 strikeouts, 46 hits allowed and 21 walks. He has allowed 15 earned runs and has thrown a strike 66 percent of the time, including 67 percent on his first pitch.
His seven wins this season tied Joe Rydeen’s season record.
“He’s a flat liner all the time,” said Hanowski. “He’s just even keel all the time — whether things are going good or things are going bad. Some days you want to yell at him to get after things a little bit more, but that’s just him. Even last year he was our No. 2 guy behind Mitch Dorn and that’s the way he was. He doesn’t get rattled. He’s just steady all the time.”
At the plate, Thoma usually hits seventh. He’s batting .267 with 12 hits, one home run and three doubles. One of those doubles came against Rocori, the Flyers’ only loss of the season.
But Thoma isn’t expected to hit for the Flyers, who have seven guys hitting better than .300, four of whom are better than .400.
The Flyers’ ace is asked to come up big in big games. So far, so good.
“He’s a great kid,” Hanowski said. “He works hard. He runs cross country, but he didn’t do a winter sport so he was throwing all winter, which allowed us to use him for a few more innings early in the season. He’s a good student and just a great kid.”
Other notable performances:
Baseball: Jaron Brezinsky, Aitkin, struck out five in a 12-2 victory over Pine City. He also went 3-for-3 with a triple, stolen base, two RBIs and two runs.
Cody Weiss, Pierz, pitched an eight-strikeout, complete-game shutout against Holdingford.
Michael Hoge, Crosby-Ironton, finished 5-6 with a home run and two runs scored in two games against Park Rapids.
Peter Zasmeta, Aitkin, finished 3-4 with three RBIs and four stolen bases against Crosby-Ironton.
Nathan Holm, Pine River-Backus, finished 2-2 with an RBI and struck out 11 in a 4-3 victory over Lake of the Woods. He was 3-5 with a double against Laporte.
Nick Greiner, Pequot Lakes, went 2-3 with an RBI and pitched Pequot to a 6-2 win over Aitkin.
Joey Hanowski, Little Falls, went 3-4 with a double, two runs scored and an RBI against St. Cloud Cathedral. He drove in two more runs against Rocori.
Golf: Nick Forsberg, Staples-Motley, won the Mid-State Conference title with his 70.
Cody Mager, Pine River-Backus, shot 80 for medalist honors at Whitefish Golf Course.
Mitch Hagenson, Staples-Motley, shot 76 for medalist honors during the Wadena-Deer Creek Invite at Whitetail Run.