Empire stars help North topple South: Thomason, Lenney shine in prep baseball showcase

 By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Two Empire standouts are back home in Sonoma County after following up their all-league baseball seasons by helping the North top the South in a state high school matchup.
    Making the North team for the California Baseball Coaches Association series was notable enough for Austin Thomason, of Petaluma High School, and Josh Lenney, out of Montgomery. Then they contributed big hits and strong play in the field as the North won two of the three games, at Santa Clara University.
    “It was amazing to play against the best. I loved it,” said Thomason, a catcher and designated hitter.
    Dozens of coaches were in the stands evaluating players, and the North also wanted bragging rights with a series win, Lenney said.
    “It’s a great opportunity individually for players, but we wanted to win and show the South we have talent,” said Lenney, a pitcher and first baseman.
    To make the North roster, the Empire players, coming off junior seasons, needed to survive cuts from 150 players to the final 20.
    Playing hard and curbing nervousness, the pair had good days during tryouts at St. Mary’s High School, in Stockton.
    “You had to give it your all. It was pretty tough,” Thomason said.
    Both players were all-league catchers, Thomason in the Sonoma County League and Lenney in the North Bay League. Thomason also made the All-Empire Large School Baseball Team.
    Yet pitching is what helped Lenney make the North squad.
    “You never really get used to it. You’ve got to focus and play like you can,” Lenney said of the tryouts.
    Highlighting the state coaches association series for Thomason was banging a pair of doubles and driving in four runs. When not catching half the innings he was at designated hitter.
    In one game Lenney helped close out a win on the mound. In another he hit a double to send home two runs.
    Coming out of the series both Thomason and Lenney had contact with coaches from NCAA baseball programs.
    Competing at a high level of prep play reminded Thomason and Lenney the hard work needed to be successful in such a difficult game.
    “All the kids down there were good,” Lenney said. “The tryouts opened up a door.”
    Building on the experience and improving in all aspects of the game is the aim now for both players.
    In addition to conditioning and skill work, both Thomason and Lenney played this summer on the Santa Rosa Connie Mack team.
    “I’ve just been doing what it takes to get to the next level,” Thomason said.
    Michael Coit can be reached at Mike.Coit@pressdemocrat.com 
   

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