Modesto's Thomas gets his moment to shine in All-Star game

Calvin Thomas spent much of his senior season playing in relative obscurity, roaming center field and punching out hits for Modesto High.

The Panthers didn't contend in the Modesto Metro Conference and their games drew a handful of spectators.

So Thomas took advantage of Saturday's 23rd Modesto Sunrise Rotary Classic to show Stanislaus District baseball fans what they had missed.

"I was looking forward to this game for the chance to play Oakdale, Ceres and other schools that we don't see in league," Thomas said. "It was a nice crowd, too, and that's always fun."

The crowd topped 800, and they got a treat early when Thomas ran 30 yards into the left-field gap to grab a liner that was headed to the fence.

"If you're not on your toes, you never get to that ball," said Thomas, who also had two singles and an RBI. "I was playing first base halfway into my junior year, then went to center, so I've still got work to do out there."

His effort wasn't enough to lead his team to a win, as the East rallied from a six-run deficit for a 9-6 win in the large-school game at Thurman Field.

Thomas could get an invite to next week's Stanislaus County vs. Merced County game at Stanislaus State, and that could be the last game he plays in the county -- he'll be at Delta College in the fall.

"Their center fielder will be a sophomore, so they're talking about me being in right or center," he said. In addition to taking different angles on balls, he'll need to strengthen his arm if he moves to right.

He and Central Catholic junior Billy Flamion were the region's top center fielders.

Thomas made The Bee's all-Stanislaus District team last week after hitting .388 with five homers. More impressive was he struck out only five times and drew 20 walks in his 96 plate appearances.

Johansen's Jon Armendariz gave Thomas a run for the Defensive MVP with a couple of slick plays at first, diving to his left and later going right to turn hits into outs.

Beyer's Garrett Roberts was the Offensive MVP after his bases-loaded triple to the center-field wall got the East to within 6-5 in the fourth.

The West dominated for the first two innings, getting five runs while Turlock's Vince Wheeland struck out four. Had Wheeland stayed on the mound, the East might still be scratching for its first run.

The East got to Johansen's Aaron Godinez in the fourth.

Downey's Clay Welch doubled in one and Beyer's Kyle Crawford singled in another, before Roberts' hard smash.

Roberts used his head to get the tying run in moments later. When the catcher threw to first to complete a strikeout, Roberts dashed to the plate and avoided a sweeping tag.

Downey's Cody Simar ran home on a wild pitch to make it 7-6 in the fifth, and the West added two more in the sixth on Simar's two-out single.

Simar picked up the win in two innings of relief, while Oakdale junior Brennon Williams threw the final two innings to pick up the save.