Highlanders hungry for another run at state title
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Incline isn’t planning to settle for anything less than a baseball state championship.
The Highlanders have the arms, the hitters and senior leadership that could take them all the way to that championship game.
“We’re pretty much a senior-laden team and I’ve been coaching these kids since Little League,” said Incline head coach Billy Knight. “They broke through last year and went to state. We’re hoping these kids can take that next step this year and win it all.”
The Highlanders may have the two best pitchers in the league with seniors Jake Harrell and Tyler Knight.
The 5-foot-11 Harrell was the team’s MVP last year both on the mound and at the plate while Knight was forced to take off his junior year with an injury.
Harrell hit an out-of-this-world .537 (29-54), including seven doubles, both team highs. He also went 6-1 on the mound with four complete games, 53 strikeouts in 31 innings and carried a miniscule 1.79 earned run average.
“I’m expecting a big year from Jake,” Knight said. “He got off to a really good start last year.”
The 6-foot-4 Knight has all the makings of a superstar pitcher for years to come. He recently signed to play NCAA division I baseball next year in Northern California.
He played near the end of the season last year, but couldn’t swing the bat, yet went 4 for 6 by just bunting the ball.
“Tyler, I’m very excited he’s back,” said the coach. “Last year he played some defense and bunted at the plate. Getting him back, we get a quality pitcher and a kid that can play anywhere. It really helps our lineup.”
The coach is also high on seniors Brayden Hock, Jacob Collins and Garen Cross.
Collins was a team leader in hitting as a junior with a .457 average and Cross and Hock each hit .300.
“I’m expecting them to have the best seasons of their lives, and if they do, we will be a factor,” said Coach Knight. “They’re now the seniors, the big big boys and we’re looking forward to a good year.”
Incline will also play this year on their newly-renovated Ridgeline Field that is at the middle school.
It has a grass infield, new dugouts and a new scoreboard that can’t be put in until May 1.
“It’s beautiful,” Knight said.
And they’re actually getting to play on it unlike last year when the snow season was massive and the year before when “Miracle March” rescued a poor winter, but killed home baseball games.
Incline, which finished in second place last year in the Northern League, starts the season Saturday with a doubleheader at Hug High School in Reno before jumping right into league play Tuesday at Silver Stage.
“We’re excited we have a new field and hopefully we get a good amount of home games this year,” Knight said. “This is the first year we’re not coming right out of the gym and taking on perennial powerhouse Yerington. We don’t get outside like most teams do. We’ve got to get our pitching staff on the right page because walks plus errors equal losses. But if the seniors have good years, things should be good for us. We should be tough to beat.”
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