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Aug. 11, 2020

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Snyder wants to beat out Thorpe as Evergreen’s top Tommy

Senior pitcher aiming for school record for strikeouts in a season

By , Columbian staff writer
4 Photos
Evergreen senior Tommy Snyder pitches during a game against Mountain View High School, Monday April 9, 2018, at Evergreen High School.
Evergreen senior Tommy Snyder pitches during a game against Mountain View High School, Monday April 9, 2018, at Evergreen High School. ( Ariane Kunze/The Columbian Photo Gallery

Tommy Snyder has pretty much done it all in his Evergreen High School career, a baseball journey that’s far from over, too, according to his head coach.

The senior is a 3A Greater St. Helens League champion by way of the Plainsmen’s first title last spring since 1982, the reigning league pitcher of the year, and has three complete-game shutouts. His first of 2018 included a career-best 15 strikeouts over seven innings.

A fitting way to end Snyder’s high school career is aiming to be Evergreen’s top Tommy.

In 2010, Tommy Thorpe won nine games for Evergreen and struck out 87 batters in 66 innings to earn 4A Greater St. Helens player of the year. Thorpe went onto be one of the Oregon Ducks’ all-time greats, and a pitcher drafted in the eighth round by the Chicago Cubs in 2014.

The 87 strikeouts still stands as the program’s single-season record, and sits as the perfect bulls’ eye for Snyder, who has 63 strikeouts over 31 1/3 innings this season.

It’s a record that Thorpe, in fact, would love to see Snyder break.

“I hope that he does it,” said Thorpe, who recently signing with the newly formed independent club Chicago Dogs. “You’re setting a standard for guys to beat and be even better than me. For him to strive for that is an awesome thing.”

And it just so happened the two Tommy’s met for the first time this past winter, when Snyder worked with a professional baseball player Evergreen coach Chad Burchett called a program legend.

Thorpe, who reached as high as Triple-A Iowa in 2017 in the Cubs’ organization, returned to the area in the offseason and served as a pitching instructor at the Vancouver-based New Athlete. Snyder reaped the benefits early, such as subtle arm delivery and mechanical improvements as well as gains in pitching’s mental side.

“Ever since it’s been so helpful for me,” Snyder said.

Besides sharing a name, the similarities between the Tommy’s are plentiful — competitively driven lefties and No. 1 starters for Evergreen — but one notable difference, according to Burchett, is pitching.

Thorpe’s hard-throwing fastball in high school reached the low 90s by his junior year at Oregon, winning 11 games for the Ducks to earn All-Pac-12 honors.

Snyder, meanwhile, isn’t known for high heat, but made a significant jump in velocity this season. A fastball that consistently hit the mid-70s last spring when he won the 3A GSHL’s pitcher of the year has now been clocked as high as 84 mph.

This, in part, is why Burchett feels the best from Snyder has yet to come. While never overly powerful at a young age, Snyder got hitters out without a relying on a fastball. Instead, he used craftiness, strong fundamentals, good mechanics and command.

In time, velocity caught up to his-now 6-foot-1 frame.

“When you learn how to get people out without a great fastball,” Burchett said, “that’s when you become a good pitcher.”

Through Wednesday, Snyder’s averaging about two strikeouts per inning. He credits a strong senior season in part to the offseason work. Snyder wasn’t the only area pitcher who benefited from Thorpe. Another prep southpaw was recent University of Portland commit Nick Nygard of Columbia River.

Snyder said the addition to his fastball has been the biggest benefit of his offseason work.

“It isn’t super fast, but for me, that’s a big deal,” he said. “If it keeps improving like that, I think I’m going to see good results in the future.”

Snyder committed to Pacific Lutheran University in November, a tradition-rich baseball program that recently won the Northwest Conference title.

Burchett feels the Lutes got a “steal” of a player, and believes Snyder’s only scratched the surface for how far he can go. PLU initially recruited Snyder as a first baseman, only to learn later of his pitching talents.

“He’s got a lot coming as far as size, strength and body,” Burchett said. “He’s going to be a player.”

Snyder wants to be a two-way college player that hopefully paves the way for another similarity of that other Tommy — a professional baseball player.

“I want to have a career like his,” Snyder said, “play college ball and get drafted.

“That’s the goal.”