Kenwood baseball

The Kenwood Academy varsity baseball celebrates a Chicago Public League (CPL) semifinal victory against Lane Tech High School at Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep, 250 E. 111th St., on May 13, 2023.

For the first time in Kenwood Academy history, the Broncos varsity baseball team is headed to the city championship game.  

A little more than a year ago, Kenwood’s run at the Chicago Public League (CPL) championship ended in a semifinal loss to the Lane Tech Champions with a 7-0 blowout. But in a semifinal rematch at Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep on Saturday, May 13, Kenwood bested the defending city champions in a close 4-3 victory. 

“In order to be the champs, you have to beat the champs,” said Kenwood head coach Romey Bracey. “Our whole off-season plan was to compete with (Lane Tech) … I wouldn’t have wanted to do it against anybody else but those guys.”    

Saturday’s Lane Tech match was scoreless for the first two innings. The drought was broken by junior outfielder Khamaree Thomas, scoring a first run for the Broncos in the bottom of the third inning. The Champions registered two straight runs in the top of the seventh inning, but Thomas came back with another run for the Broncos at the bottom of the inning, stealing the home plate. 

Tied, the game moved into an extra eighth inning. Lane Tech scored once more at the top, but junior Savion “Big Power” Flowers tied the game with the help of sophomore Phillip Thigpen’s base hit. The Broncos’ game-winning run came that inning from sophomore Jimmy Downs. After a Lane Tech pitcher attempted a fake pickoff, he balked and stepped off the pitcher’s mound; Downs, who was waiting on third, seized the opportunity and stole home plate.

“I didn’t think he was going to balk,” said Downs of the game-winning play. “To be honest with you, I thought my boy (teammate Brandon Stinson) was going to come (after me) and finish the game.” 

The victory was also secured by junior starting pitcher Kevari “Lighting” Thunderbird, who administered eight strikeouts before being pulled out of the game after more than 100 pitches. 

“I was throwing good earlier in the game,” said Thunderbird. “My start kind of got mixed up a little bit in the condition of the mound. I started feeling my fastball a little bit more.” 

Downs replaced Thunderbird as a relief pitcher in the top of the seventh inning. He said he felt confident stepping onto the mound. 

“When I went out there, I told myself ‘it’s my time,’” Downs said. “We got a great offensive team. Overall, I wasn’t even scared. I just wanted to throw strikes and dominate.” 

The 25-4 team now heads to the school’s first baseball city championship game, in the home of the Chicago White Sox. On Monday, the Broncos will face off against the Payton College Prep Grizzlies, another team pegged as underdogs at the beginning of this season. The Broncos handily beat the Grizzlies with a score of 7-1 in early April, but after Payton’s 11-5 upset against Simeon Career Academy last Saturday, Bracey doesn’t want Kenwood to get too confident.

“They were one of the better-hitting teams that we have seen,” Bracey. “I know they want to get their revenge for their loss against us earlier in the season.” 

The city championship game will take place on Monday, May 22 at Guaranteed Rate Field, 333 W. 35th St. The match will start at 1 p.m. 

"We believe in each other,” Bracey said. “We have been a team that has overcome adversity for the past two years. We are a true team. If somebody doesn’t come through, their teammates got their back. That’s what the Kenwood Bronco way is.”  

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