By Ray Hamill — After a breakthrough season in baseball for the Del Norte Warriors, three of their seniors have announced where they will be continuing their playing careers.
Leadoff hitter Willie Bommelyn and pitcher/shortstop Ethan Thomas have committed to play at Butte College, while third baseman/pitcher Cole Blackburn will take his talents to Shasta College.
The talented trio were part of a stellar senior class that set a new standard for Del Norte baseball after winning back-to-back games in the playoffs for the first time in program history.
Thomas, who is also a standout football and basketball player, led the Warriors at the plate with a .356 average and had a team-high eight doubles.
He also drove in a co-team high 18 RBIs, along with Brody Mattz, while posting a 4-3 record on the hill with an ERA of 4.11.
However, it was the intangibles he displayed that makes Coborn believe Thomas is ready to move on to the college game.
“What really makes Thomas special is that he really grew as an individual this year, as well as growing as a player,” the head coach said. “He really showed some leadership qualities for our ball club.”
The versatile senior played a lot of different roles and never backed down from the challenge, always wanting to do what was best for the team.
“I think Butte sets him up to succeed academically and athletically.”
He will be joined in Oroville by Bommelyn, who was one of the most effective lead-off hitters in the H-DN this spring.
But that was no coincidence.
“He’s a hard-working player,” Coborn said. “And he did amazing for us in the lead-off spot. He always found a way to reach base.”
And once he got there, more often than not, he made opposing teams pay.
In addition to leading the Warriors in on-base percentage (0.465), Bommelyn also had an incredible 27 stolen bases on 28 attempts, more than twice as many as any of his teammates and the eighth best tally in the entire North Coast Section.
He also led the Warriors in runs (28), hits (29) and triples (three).
“He also really grew as a hitter this year,” Coborn said. “And what I think will help him be successful at the next level is his mindset.
While Thomas and Bommelyn were multi-sport athletes that had big impacts on other Del Norte teams as well, Blackburn was a baseball-only player who thrived with the program.
And he quickly established himself as a driving force for the team this spring.
“I called him our bulldog because that’s what he is,” Coborn said. “He came to work every day at practice. He loves the game and he’s always trying to get better.”
The talented Blackburn was an effective two-way player for the Warriors and had a knack for getting a clutch hit, while driving in 14 runs.
He also gave the team a reliable glove at third base and had the second-best ERA on the team (2.88) while going 4-3 in seven appearances, including six starts.
“He’s a good contact hitter and he’s got some good stuff on the mound,” Coborn said. “He’s going to go out there and compete for you.”
All three Del Norte players also were popular figures on the team, another characteristic that augurs well for their future.
“That’s the thing about all three of these guys, they’re great teammates and they want to win for their teammates,” Coborn said.
Before they head east, all three players are spending the summer playing with the Humboldt Eagles 19U American Legion team.
All three also honed their skills while competing for the Northern Humboldt Giants the past few summers.
Blackburn is one of four local baseball standouts who will go from the Big 5 to Shasta College, joining Fortuna’s Rylan Lommori and Matt Letter and Arcata’s Will Mager.