When Rylan Thomas is on, so is Franklin-Simpson.
Thomas — the quarterback that helped lead the Franklin-Simpson football team to a Class 4A state championship last season and the ace pitcher for the Wildcats’ baseball team — thrives in crunch-time situations.
On the mound Monday afternoon for the Wildcats in the quarterfinals of the Region 4 Tournament at WKU’s Nick Denes Field, Thomas performed at a high level — tossing a complete-game six-hit shutout with five strikeouts to lead Franklin-Simpson (25-11) to a 3-0 win over South Warren. MORE COVERAGE
“Rylan really put us on his back and carried us today,” Franklin-Simpson coach Kyle Gammons said. “He’s a competitor, and we see that every time he’s out here. He’s a kid that throws a lot of breaking balls, and we seen bunches of ‘em today. He did a great job for us today.”
Thomas, being an all-around classy teammate, made sure his defense was praised for the way it played behind him.
“I was hitting the outside of the zone really good, and my defense made some great plays behind me,” Thomas said. “Five strikeouts, yeah … but my defense did all the work today.”
As Franklin-Simpson — a usual offensive powered team — only finished with three hits, Gammons said his club still had quality at-bats. And although the Wildcats were outhit 6-3 on the day, Thomas’ outing was enough for FSHS to come out on top.
“Even though we only had three hits, we had some really good, quality at-bats. A quality at-bat doesn’t necessarily always end in a hit,” Gammons said. “It’s seeing lots of pitches, hitting balls hard, and drawing walks. I thought our guys did that today.”
While South Warren (24-12) failed to score, Franklin-Simpson scored each of their three runs in the top of the second. Donovan Alderson laid down an RBI single, and Alex Gilbert followed up with a two-run triple to give the Wildcats a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Gilbert — who has been on a hot streak as of late — led the way offensively with a 1-for-2, two RBI outing, while Alderson went 1-for-2 with an RBI. Jordan Jones earned the other hit of the contest for the Wildcats.
“I’ve just been trying to see it big and trying to put it in play so my teammates and us have a chance to win” Gilbert said. “Coach told us before the game that we weren’t going to get a lot of fastballs, so take advantage of the ones that we get. I just took advantage of it.”
Despite its season-ending loss, South Warren earned a great performance out of pitcher Tyler Martin. Although he allowed three runs with three hits, Martin threw five strikeouts and went the distance for the Spartans.
Offensively, Trent Rice led the way with a perfect 2-for-2 day at the plate.
“I’ve never been more prouder of a team at South Warren High School,” South Warren coach Chris Gage said. “These guys all did it by doing the little things really well and competing as a team. There’s no team in the state that has the quality of the kids with this much class.”
With Franklin-Simpson’s victory, it’ll now face District 16 champion Russell County in Tuesday’s 5 p.m. semifinal. The Wildcats and Lakers (25-7) did not meet in the regular-season.
After a scoreless inning to open the game, Franklin-Simpson went to work in the ensuing frame.
“It feels really good. “It makes my confidence go really high,” Thomas said. “I’m just grateful that I get to do it.”
Following Jones’ leadoff single — and advancing to second on a throwing error — Alderson stepped to the plate and singled to score Jones and give the Wildcats a 1-0 lead.
Just after Alderson’s hit, Gilbert — the No. 9 hitter — came up big. On the fourth pitch of the at-bat, Gilbert send a hard ball into right field to plate Alderson and give himself a triple.
Leading 3-0 after two complete innings, Thomas and Franklin-Simpson were able to hold off South Warren from that point forward and extend its season another day.
“They’re a good team. We saw them play before us, but we really don’t know much about them,” said Thomas of Russell County. “It looks like they can hit the ball. I’m ready for tomorrow.”SWHS – 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 – 0 6 1FSHS – 0 3 0 0 0 0 0 – 3 3 0WP: Thomas. LP: Martin.–Senior writer Tyler Mansfield can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @TMansfieldST.–