Springfield, OR - Trailing 3-2 to 6A rival Sheldon in a state semifinal, Thurston senior Hunter Combs yelled at his teammates prior to the bottom of the seventh inning, "We are not going to lose this game." Combs was right. The Colts' infielder came through with the game-winning hit to send Thurston to the 6A state championship game.
After unsuccessfully trying to bunt with runners on second and third Combs stepped out of the batters box and refocused. On an 0-2 count, Combs grounded the ball down the third baseline, scoring Rocco Ferrari from third. Stefan Drake ran through a stop sign at third and attempted to beat the throw home. He did, but barely.
"I just had a feeling that I was getting there and I got there," said Drake. "Right when he called it safe, I just - it's just the greatest feeling I've ever had."
The two runs gave Thurston a 4-3 walk-off victory and sent the Colts to the title game where they will play Oregon City on Saturday at Volcanoes Stadium in Keizer.
Thurston took an early 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Sheldon responded with two in the top of the fourth. In the fifth, Cooper Stiles nearly gave the Irish its first lead when drove one deep to left field. The ball hit off the fence and Stiles ended up with a double.
Brett Nielson drove Stiles in with a double of his own. Nielson grounded the ball down the first baseline, scoring Stiles from second to give Sheldon a 3-2 lead.
In the bottom of the fifth, Kyle Hoover attempted to steal home for the Colts, but he was called out on a close play.
It stayed 3-2 until the seventh when Combs delivered the game-winner.
"I bunted the first one foul," explained Combs. "(Coach) called it again. I bunted the second foul, stepped out of the batters box, got refocused and (took a) two strike approach. We hit Brett (Nielson) all season and I was thankful he came in. I choked up, lined up my feet and just smashed it down the line."
This is Thurston's second trip to the title game. The Colts won the 5A state championship in 2009.