High School Baseball:

Thorburn hit streak ended at 14 straight

CorrespondentMarch 29, 2012 

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Cardinal Gibbons' Robbie Thorburn (11) fist bumps coach Jim Liebler as he rounds third base on his way home after connecting for a three-run homer in the third inning to give Cardinal Gibbons a 9-0 lead over Union Pines on Thursday March 29, 2012. Gibbons rolled to a 10-0 victory.

ROBERT WILLETT — rwillett@newsobserver.com

Maybe there is a secret to turning Cardinal Gibbons’ hot-hitting Robbie Thorburn into an easy out.

Just get a submarining left-hander on the mound.

That turned out to be the magic bullet for visiting Union Pines on Thursday, as Seth Breasseale easily retired Thorburn on a bouncer to first to lead off the Cardinals’ first inning and end the left-hitting junior second baseman’s hitting streak at 14.

Not 14 games, 14 at-bats over 16 plate appearances. Nearly impossible stuff.

So maybe Thorburn wasn’t quite able to break the state record, which he’ll share with Kevin Jordan of Jordan-Matthews, who had a similar 14-for-14 streak 15 seasons ago.

But he and the Crusaders did get the last laugh, as his three-run homer in the third – his second of the season - was the biggest blow in a 10-0 romp ended after 4 ½ innings. The result completed a two-game sweep of the non-conference series.

Coach Jim Liebler and a few others in the Gibbons athletic department were aware of the record, but Thorburn and his teammates were kept in the dark on the matter.

“I didn’t know about it before the game,” said Thorburn, who in the fall committed to UNC Wilmington where he already has some close family ties. “I just knew I was hot. I reached on errors against (Breasseale) before, but he’s got my number, I guess.

“I think the best thing I’ve done is hit early in the count. I haven’t seen many off-speed pitches. I was just jumping on fastballs and the ball has been looking like a grapefruit. On my home run, (Allen Denny) threw me a first-pitch fastball and I ran into that one pretty good.”

The national record is 22 by Pat Simmons of Bradley-Bourbonnais, Ill., completed in 1982, and nobody else ever had more than 17. Only 12 high schoolers have ever reached 16, and after Thorburn and Jordan only three other North Carolinians – including Gastonia’s Wes Helms who played for the 1996 Durham Bulls – have reached 11.

Thorburn accomplished the feat in 16 plate appearances, with five doubles, a triple and a homer with three RBI. He was hit by a pitch and drew a walk during the streak.

“He’s a great player,” said Liebler, whose team improved to 7-5 with a four-game winning streak. “He’s been on the varsity since he was a freshman and he’s got a pure stroke. Nobody’s surprised that he’s killing it. Of those 14 hits, 13 of them were absolutely hit on the nose and the other one was a flare. He was creaming it. I think I’ve seen one submarine lefty in 15 years of coaching. That was just bad luck, I guess.”

The visitors didn’t know about the record either, particularly not coach Chad Hill, who is Thorburn’s coach on a touring team called the Canes that has played in the world wood bat championships.

“I hate that because I love Robbie,” said Hill, whose Cape Fear Valley-leading team fell to 8-3. “Maybe we should play again and we’ll let him get his hit if they’ll let us win. I had the privilege of coaching him this summer, and he’s an unbelievable young man.

“They’re a good team. We’re playing six games in seven days and we just didn’t have a good day today.”

Breasseale lasted only 1 1/3 innings in the loss, while Gibbons starter Tyler Pickard allowed just two hits while striking out six without a walk.

But at least the Vikings’ starter may have something to tell his grandchildren about someday.

“I just threw him three straight fastballs,” Breasseale said. “But the way I throw is a little goofy and it messes people up. I started against them on opening day, but we don’t really have starters. We all go two or three innings. I guess I need to congratulate him.”

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