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Former Little League stars share excitement of college signing

Coronado's Tyler Thorne, Zane Ancell and Taylor Bridges sign national letters of intent to play for Division-I universities

Posted: November 16, 2012 - 12:11am  |  Updated: November 16, 2012 - 1:20am
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Zane Ancell, Tyler Thorne and Taylor Bridges put their pens down after signing on to play division one baseball in college at the signing event in the Coronado High School library on Thursday. Ancell, Thorne and Bridges signed to New Mexico, Stanford and Texas Tech respectively. (Scott MacWatters/Lubbock Avalanche-Journal)  Scott MacWatters
Scott MacWatters
Zane Ancell, Tyler Thorne and Taylor Bridges put their pens down after signing on to play division one baseball in college at the signing event in the Coronado High School library on Thursday. Ancell, Thorne and Bridges signed to New Mexico, Stanford and Texas Tech respectively. (Scott MacWatters/Lubbock Avalanche-Journal)
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It seems like just yesterday, Tyler Thorne says, that he and his 12-year-old buddies were living every kid’s dream, digging their cleats into the dirt at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.

This week brought the realization of a different dream, as Coronado teammates Thorne, Taylor Bridges and Zane Ancell signed national letters of intent to play college baseball at Division-I universities.

Thorne, the right-handed pitcher and third baseman, signed with Stanford; Ancell, an outfielder/left-handed pitcher, signed with New Mexico; and Bridges, the left-handed pitcher, inked with hometown school Texas Tech.

The trio celebrated the signings Thursday during a ceremony at Coronado.

“It’s awesome to be able to do it with my buddies,” Thorne said. “We’ve always had dreams of signing with college baseball teams, but we never used to take it serious. It’s really crazy. I feel like yesterday we were growing up, playing together. Now we’re all ready to take that next step.”

Frenship’s Stephen Smith, who was also a member of the Western Little League team that made it to Williamsport in 2007, signed Wednesday with Tech, as well.

For that group, this week’s signings represented a journey from celebrated youth players to high school stars to scholarship-worthy ballplayers.

Ancell conceded it was “a stretch” to think the whole group would make it to this point, signing with major programs on the same day, but he also never thought it was out of the realm of possibility, not with the dedication the group displayed at such a young age.

“I knew if we all stuck with it,” Ancell said, “we could get there. “Getting to Williamsport, we knew what it was like to have to work really hard, so to say I never thought it would happen isn’t exactly true.”

Thorne struggled to sleep Tuesday night, he said, eager to get up and fax in the letter that would make him a part of the Stanford program. Thorne had been committed to LSU since early in his junior year, but the chance to receive the type of education Stanford provides was too much to pass up.

"LSU is one of the greatest places on the planet," Thorne said, "and I felt like when you compared the two, you can't go wrong. But the education you get at Stanford is something you can't match."

Ancell missed his junior season following Tommy John surgery, but he said rehab and recovery have gone even better than planned, leaving him excited to begin his senior season, then head to New Mexico.

He said the Lobos' strong non-conference schedule was one of the draws of playing in Albuquerque.

"It's a real up and coming program," Ancell said. "We're going to play the best. We won't be afraid to play anybody."

For Ancell, Thursday's signing ceremony was special because it allowed him to honor his parents, who have poured plenty of time and money into his baseball career, particularly during the pricey rehab process.

"To be able to share this with my parents and know I'm helping them out," Ancell said, "it's pretty great."

Bridges said the opportunity to play in front of friends and family at Tech was too good to pass up.

"It's great for the family that they don't have to do too much traveling," he said.

The lefty, who has been a key part of Coronado's pitching rotation each of the last two years, said he's looking forward to playing for new Tech coach Tim Tadlock.

"Coach Tadlock is just a great man from everything I've heard," Bridges said. "You hear nothing but good things about him and his staff."

Coronado coach Gary Hix said seeing three of his players sign with Division-I universities on the same day was special, but he was sure to add he didn't believe he deserved credit.

"I had very little to do with it," Hix said. "It has everything to do with the hard work and dedication they've put in. They've put in the time, and it's nice to see their efforts rewarded."

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