Blue Jay alum Nate Soulis coaches Thompson to state title

·5 min read

Jun. 18—Nate Soulis, did in two years what his dad, Mike, has been waiting more than 30 years to do.

Soulis, a 2015 Jamestown High School grad, recently coached the Thompson High School baseball team to its first state championship since 2016. Thompson defeated top-seeded LaMoure/Litchville-Marion 11-7 in the state finals.

2022 marked just Soulis' second season as the head coach for the Tommies.

"My mom is the one making jokes about it — I haven't said a word," Soulis said of garnering a state championship plaque before his dad.

Looking at the stats, Thompson was clearly the best team in the Class B baseball scene this past spring. The Tommies came out of the regular season with a 17-1 record, their only loss coming against Hillsboro/Central Valley on May 6. The Burros beat Thompson 6-5.

"I was able to work with a really good crew," Soulis said. "We really only lost one starter (from last year), so year two was kind of the same group of guys. We kind of just kept working on the same stuff we had worked on in the first year and kept improving.

"It was a really special year, everything just kind of went our way. It feels pretty good and it's obviously something you are going to remember forever."

Thompson was the No. 2 seed going into the state tournament.

"We really liked where we were at going from our region tournament into State," Soulis said. "Obviously you never know how a state championship is going to go and it was kind of a roller coaster ride those first couple of innings but after that we kind of got control of the game.

"I thought the big turning point for us, mentally, was when we got it tied up 4-4 and then we shut them down in the bottom of the third. I don't know there was any magic speech or anything that we said, we just trusted in what we had done all year, played our style of baseball and it worked out in our favor."

Thompson was the only team to beat the Loboes this season. The Tommies did it twice, in the state championship and at the beginning of April in the Loboes' season opener.

Thompson has had a long tradition of being one of the biggest powerhouses in Class B baseball. The Tommies have appeared in 10 state championship games. They have won it all six times in program history which ties Drayton and Bishop Ryan's streaks for the second-most state championships awarded. Drayton won the title every year from 1958 to 1963 while Bishop Ryan's last title came in 2009.

Hatton still holds the most state championship trophies with seven but with Soulis at the helm, the Tommies will be looking to best the Thunder's record.

"We're not ever going to get to a place where we aren't trying to get better and trying to improve," Soulis said. "The best part about high school sports is that you always kind of have a new group. After this year we will have a heckuva lot more openings.

"It's kind of a new team and a new dynamic. You almost start fresh and try to keep the pressure off of the kids and go one day at a time. There is no complacency though — after winning one — it makes you even hungrier. You always want to be achieving and keep that championship-type feeling."

Soulis is no stranger to the concept of bettering his game.

"I kind of wanted to do anything and everything that involved sports and since my dad was a coach, I was around all of those teams that he was coaching whether that was baseball or football or basketball and I enjoyed being a part of that," Soulis said.

Soulis played several sports growing up and then settled in on three in high school and while he enjoyed all of them, baseball was always the favorite.

"I spent a stupid amount of time out at the baseball fields — probably more than one would want to," Soulis said. "I worked there for Tom Gould, I practiced and played there then would stay after the games to hang out with the guys. That was just kind of the place to be for me."

Following his graduation from JHS, Soulis attended Valley City State University and played baseball for the Vikings while he pursued a degree in elementary education and physical education.

December 2019 found Soulis applying for jobs when the position at Thompson became available.

"When I saw the opening, I knew that was kind of the dream spot based on the success that they had had with baseball and then there was a teaching position that was in my field," Soulis said.

"I was lucky enough to have people who had coached me and that I had worked for who knew some of the administrators in Thompson who kind of hooked me up and I was able to build a relationship with them there through the hiring process. It felt too good to be true."

Soulis hit the ground running in the spring of 2021 and while it was his first official head coaching job, he had been around plenty of experienced coaches and knew what bits and pieces of their coaching styles he wanted to bring to Thompson. He extended thanks to Gould, his former high school and college coaches and, of course, his dad.

"My dad always kind of did it the right way," Soulis said. "Growing up, you see that and he's who I kind of modeled my coaching style after."

While he got a state championship trophy before Mike, Soulis acknowledged that he still has plenty to learn from the wealth of experience his dad has garnered from coaching up generations of Blue Jay athletes.

"I think the thing that he has over me with 30 years of coaching is that he has built, maintained and sustained a program," Soulis said.

"Then he took a break and came back and had some more success. I still have to go for the longevity piece of it. He's been very consistent and that's what we are shooting for up in Thompson — we want to consistently be the best."