Thys finds stroke in Sonoma

Former Placer star helping Seawolves maintain excellence
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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Now at his third college since graduating from Placer High in 2009, Joel Thys finally has a clear path for this baseball future. That’s allowed him to focus on what he and Sonoma State do very well: win. After leading the Hillmen to a Sac-Joaquin Section title as a senior, Thys was a heralded recruit heading to Long Beach State. But the skilled catcher left the 49ers’ program and landed at Ohlone College, where he revived his career in a big way. Now he’s the starting catcher at Sonoma State – one of the top NCAA Division II programs in the country. “It’s been quite a ride,” Thys said. “It’s been difficult at times, but it’s helped me grow up a lot. It’s been good in the long run. Everything helped me get to this point.” The junior earned a chance to play at Sonoma State after he helped Ohlone Junior College to a runner-up finish in the state tournament last spring. He was drafted in the 47th round of last June’s Major League Baseball Draft by the Marlins, but he opted to stick with the Seawolves. Sonoma State leads the California Collegiate Athletic Association with a 10-2 record heading into today’s game against Cal Poly Pomona. Thys has been a big part of the early success. He’s started 12 of 20 games this season, batting .300 with one double and one triple on the year. Always an impressive defensive catcher, Thys has just one error on the season and has a 1.000 fielding percentage in 12 CCAA games. “Defense is my ultimate strength,” Thys said. “I’m starting to get going with the bat. I’m happy to be at .300. I want to try to maintain that the rest of the year.” Thys said it didn’t take long to develop a relationship with Sonoma’s talented pitchers, including Thomas Lee – a leading candidate for Division II Player of the Year. “It really came naturally,” Thys said. “They trusted me after a few intersquad games together in the fall. I’m fortunate to catch a really good pitching staff. It’s fun calling games.” Today’s home game in Rohnert Park could be a major milestone for Seawolves head coach John Goelz, who has 899 wins in his 27-year career at the school. “He’s going for his 900th win, so it will be fun to try to help him get that,” said Thys, who is pursuing a degree in history. Thys won’t be putting away his catcher’s gear anytime soon. This summer, he is headed to Fayetteville, N.C., where he will play for the Fayetteville Swampdogs in the Coastal Plains League. Before then, he’s hoping to be a part of something special later this spring with Sonoma State. The Seawolves advanced to the Division II World Series last season and they appear to be on a similar path early on this year. “It’s standard for them here,” Thys said. “That’s part of the reason I came here. Winning is a regular thing here.”