Kevari Thunderbird hurls a gem to lead Kenwood to its first baseball city title

Kenwood won its first Public League baseball title Monday at Guaranteed Rate Field. The 2-0 win against Payton required a total team effort.

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Kenwood’s Kevari Thunderbird (4) reacts at home plate during the city championship game against Payton at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Kenwood’s Kevari Thunderbird (4) reacts at home plate during the city championship game against Payton at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

Kenwood won its first Public League baseball title Monday at Guaranteed Rate Field. The 2-0 victory against Payton required a total team effort.

There were small moments that meant everything: Junior Destin Edwards’ sacrifice bunt in the sixth inning set the stage for both runs.

There was high-level talent: Broncos starting pitcher Kevari Thunderbird, a junior, struck out 12 and allowed only two hits in six innings.

And some moments showed how badly Kenwood wanted the championship: Right fielder Savion Flowers hurled his body through the net and into the stands while trying to catch a foul ball.

“I’m not going to lie; I really couldn’t sleep [last night],” Thunderbird said. “I was thinking about the moment and getting the win for my team, especially my brothers. I wanted to make sure they both left with a ring.”

Thunderbird and his two brothers, seniors Kevin and K’vion, will get that ring.

“This is one of the goals,” Broncos coach Romey Bracey said. “And the first one is always the hardest one. Give credit to Payton. They played us tough. This was a tough game.”

Sophomore Philip Thigpen led off the sixth with a single, and Brandon Stinson drew a walk from Payton’s Max McNamara.

Edwards’ bunt moved both runners into scoring position, and then the pivotal moment arrived. The Grizzlies were unable to handle a grounder hit by Jonathan Patterson. A bad throw led to Thigpen and Stinson scoring.

“I felt confident after that,” Kevari Thunderbird said. “I knew we could get the win.”

Thunderbird pitched exclusively out of the stretch. The lefty crouches very low before he throws.

“I do that to keep the ball low,” Thunderbird said. “When I’m missing high, it’s because I’m popping up a little bit. So I stay low. I know I can do better, but that was one of the best games I’ve thrown. I started noticing they were late, so my fastball was really my go-to pitch.”

Thunderbird has committed to Eastern Kentucky for baseball. He filled in as Kenwood’s starting quarterback this fall after two other players went down injured.

“That’s our guy,” Bracey said. “He has taken such a big leap this year. He’s always been a top-notch talent, but his fundamentals have grown. When he has the ball in his hands, we feel confident about our chances.”

Junior Khamaree Thomas came in to earn the save for the Broncos (26-4). Thomas hit one batter and another reached on an error, which gave Payton a chance to rally with one out. But Thomas struck out the last two hitters to secure the win.

Kenwood’s Kevin Thunderbird Jr. (14) holds the championship trophy with his teammates after winning the title game against Payton at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Kenwood’s Kevin Thunderbird Jr. (14) holds the championship trophy with his teammates after winning the title game against Payton at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

“I trust my teammates to get the job done, so I wasn’t worried,” Thunderbird said.

McNamara, a senior, threw all six innings for Payton. He allowed two runs and five hits, struck out six and walked four. The Grizzlies (12-17) start multiple sophomores and only two seniors.

“We are young guys; we make some mistakes,” Payton coach Garry Gustafson said. “But my hat goes off to Kenwood. I couldn’t be more proud of what we accomplished this year. This is certainly a stepping stone for the future.”

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