Thuer was a first-rate first baseman for Smyrna

Julia Thuer was a first-team All-State selection last season as Smyrna won its second straight state title. Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

SMYRNA — A year later, it seems kind of fitting.

On the final play of Julia Thuer’s Smyrna High softball career, the first baseman did a split and stretched to catch the throw.

The play completed a game-ending double play that sealed the Eagles’ 1-0 win over Caravel and gave them their second straight DIAA state title.

Thuer threw the ball to the ground as she ran to the pitchers’ circle to celebrate with her teammates.

“I re-watch it all the time,” the senior admitted. “I can replay the moment over and over again. … At the end, I threw it (the ball). I don’t even know where it went.”

At a position that can sometimes get overlooked, Smyrna coach Nicki Shirey said Thuer was as good a defensive first baseman as she’s seen. Doing a split to catch a throw was pretty commonplace for her.

A first-team All-State pick as a junior last spring, Thuer is going to Division I Monmouth on a softball scholarship.

“First base can be an underrated position,” said Shirey. “It doesn’t get a lot of attention. The job of the first baseman is typically to make everybody look good — and she does that well.”

But Thuer worked hard to make herself one of the top softball players in the state going into this season.

It wasn’t unusual for Thuer to get up at 4 a.m. three days a week to drive to Wilmington for workouts before school. This winter she was trying to get back quickly from foot surgery that was probably going to sideline her for the first few weeks of the season.

Thuer is used to friends telling her “I could never do that,” when she says what time she wakes up.

Thuer hit .420 for the Eagles as a junior and drove in 21 runs to help lead Smyrna. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

“I worked really hard to get back to be able to play March 1,” said Thuer. “It’s just kind of frustrating because I did PT three or four times a week to get ready.

“Once you start doing it, after a while, you don’t even really think about it,” she said about early-morning workouts. “It just gets easier. Now my body always wakes up at four — like it’s a Saturday and I’m trying to sleep in.”

Shirey said Thuer was always the one pushing her teammates in off-season workouts.

“She was all about keeping her head down, working hard and pushing her teammates,” said Shirey. “She’s definitely a high-intensity player that’s very focused.”

Softball helped Thuer find her place with the Eagles. Growing up in Middletown, she went to Red Lion Christian in Bear for most of her school career.

She was on Red Lion’s varsity squad as both an eighth and ninth grader before transferring to Smyrna.

“It was definitely a big switch,” said Thuer. “Going from a school that only had 30 kids in my grade to having like 400 was very different. Being in a hallway with 800 people at a time. … that’s a lot.

“In high school, these people have been together since elementary school and I’m brand new. But I did have some friends from my travel-ball team that already went there, so that made it easier.”

Thuer actually only became a first baseman when she got to Smyrna.

Before that, she played the outfield or second base. It helped that she sprouted up to a relatively-tall 5-foot-7.

Thuer, who transferred from Red Lion Christian after her freshman year, has a scholarship to Monmouth. Delaware State News file photo

Thuer, who made 20 unassisted outs last season, said the most difficult adjustment was lining up that close to the batter.

“That took some time to get used to, especially because I like to creep up,” she said.

Shirey said that Theur was especially good at handling the mental part of playing first base.

So many defensive plays in softball start with making the right decision and then executing it very quickly.

“She knew how to take control in the ‘small ball’ situations,” said Shirey. “She was really good at reading the situation. As a first baseman, she really had the mentality almost of a catcher. She was able to see the field well.”

“I usually don’t let situations startle me,” said Thuer, who’s been playing travel ball since she was seven. “I usually stay pretty calm. I definitely like that part of the game — the thinking aspect of the game. I think I know the game pretty well so that makes it easier.”

Offensively, Thuer batted anywhere from third to fifth in the lineup for the Eagles. A year ago, she hit .420 with 20 runs scored, 21 RBI and four homeruns.

It was Thuer who singled home Kayla Wilson with the winning run in Smyrna’s 1-0 victory over Caravel in the state finals.

“She was always putting the ball in play,” said Shirey. “She knew that if she had runners on base, she needed to get that ball to the outfield — and most of the time she could do that for us.”

Thuer, who would like to go into law enforcement some day, said she’s excited about going to Monmouth. She likes that it’s a relatively-small school and only a few hours from home.

She verbally committed to Monmouth when she was only a freshman. And while she did look into other schools, Thuer said she didn’t regret her decision.

“I didn’t have as much stress,” she said. “It was easier to know that I had my deal pretty much done. I could just focus on actually playing softball instead of everything else that goes along with it.”