Casey Thomas has been fully entrenched as the Desert Vista shortstop for three years, but there is something different with old reliable No. 1 this season.

Whether it is the deft way he is fielding his position or how he is swinging the bat, Thomas has been tremendous for the Thunder.

"He came into this season ready to play more than ever before," Desert Vista coach Stan Luketich said. "His work ethic and his ability have come together to become the player we always thought he could be."

The 5-foot-10, 160-pounder has been one of the steady players on a team has seen its share of injuries in an up-and-down season at 8-12 overall and 1-1 in the Fiesta Region entering the week.

And there is good reason for that.

"That is what you are supposed to do as a senior," Thomas said. "I am realizing there is only so much time left and it is our (the senior class) time to make sure we get everything out of this season we can."

While there are only so many games left in his high school career, there are signs that he will be able to continue at the next level as Fresno State, Arizona and New Mexico have shown interest with area junior colleges a secondary option.

"I am going to do whatever it takes to keep playing," he said. "It's what I have always wanted to do."

Thomas has mostly made his mark in is career on the defensive side of the game becoming one of the more reliable shortstops in the Southeast Valley, if not the state.

"I think he is the best shortstop there is," left-handed starter Hunter Rodriguez said. "I know any ball hit to short is going to be taken care of because he is going to make the play."

Luketich knows he can pencil Thomas in the lineup at short every game and he is going to get a top effort.

"His defense has been good, getting to some balls that others can't get to," the only coach the program has known. "He is going to give you all he has and come up with the plays we have to have."

Thomas has been a big part of the Thunder offense, as well, hitting .400 with nine doubles, two home runs, 17 runs and 13 RBIs. The average runs and RBIs rank among the best on the team.

Some of the numbers are close to surpassing his full-season output as a junior when he hit .388 with 19 runs, six doubles, four home runs and 16 RBIs.

"I have been feeling good at the plate, again, that is what you are supposed to do as a senior," he said. "You are supposed to develop into a leader on and off the field."

Thomas has been around the game for a long time as his father, Tom, as been a scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers for about 15 years.

Fathers love to give pointers to their sons before and after games. It isn't always well-received, especially if it happens soon after a tough loss or bad game.

Some of those instructions carry more weight than others, especially when he is the guy who recommended the Dodgers draft the likes of Paul Konerko.

"He knows my swing better than anyone," the younger Thomas said. "He knows the game and it gives me an advantage to have him there to help me."

The influence of his father's knowledge has bled into Thomas' baseball IQ and he does his best to make sure to pass it along to his teammates.

"He is the leader of the infield," said Rodriguez, who also plays first base. "He is a quiet leader but when something needs to be done, he makes sure it does."

Thomas said the Thunder, who have had dealt with injuries to Dereck Grey (jaw) and Ryan Modi (foot), have to start playing better now that Fiesta Region action has started.

"This is probably the best team we've had since I've been here," he said. "We have to put it all together and we can really do something special."

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