Lady Warriors expecting big things today entering playoffs
ZEPHYR COVE – Over 20 game each means one thing. Both the Whittell High School boys’ baseball team and girls’ softball team have played over 100 innings this season – all in preparation for what comes their way today as they each open play inside the NIAA postseason.
For head coach Rich Barna, his Lady Warriors softball team knows all about what it takes to win in the postseason. Pitching, defense and clutch hitting.
Sophomore Amanda Harris saw first hand how one pitch and one key hit can be the end-all to a season. In the teams game to go to State last season, she gave up just one hit in an 8-inning, 1-0 loss. That one hit was an RBI single in the first extra inning that sent Battle Mountain to the semifinals and left Barna and his team licking their chops at a chance to get that same opportunity again.
“Amanda especially, as a freshman last year was just outstanding,” he said. “Right now she is struggling just a little bit. Mostly because she’s still young and is going through some growing pains. She’s going to be something special in a few years to come though.”
Marissa Besson gets the call from Barna in the game one start tomorrow. She will be able to go in game two in necessary, but if not, it will be Harris, now a sophomore, who the team will be leaning on to get them through to next weekend’s zone tournament in Lovelock.
The team dropped it’s final regular season matchup Tuesday to North Valley, but Barna says the game itself was a good tune-up heading into today’s 1 p.m. game with Silver State.
“North Valley was just a tune-up for me,” he said. “After facing North Tahoe our hands got slow. Facing this North Valley team helped us speed up our bats. I really think we’re about as ready as we could be. I can’t see us losing, but you never know what’s about to happen.”
Whittell finished the season as the third seed in the eight team regional, and, therefore come in as one of four host schools. Their home field in Zephyr Cove will be the site of two games today in the best-of-three series with Silver State who defeated the Lady Warriors 11-5 earlier this season in a shortened tourney format in the Carson Valley.
“It wasn’t even a full game; it was our third game of the day and it was shortened because of the time limit enforced by the tourney,” Barna said. “We struggled with pitching because we had a couple of injuries during the game so we weren’t 100 percent. We should be 100 percent going into today so hopefully the story is a little different this time.”
Silver State didn’t win a game in their league play this year, but playing against tough competition in the form of Dayton and Yerington, it’s not all that indicative of what type of team the Lady Warriors will see today.
“They are in just a tough league which has a lot to do with their record,” Barna said. “Facing some tough competition usually makes teams better come playoff time. Their strongest suit by far is their pitcher. She throws hard.”
Expecting a seesaw battle, Barna hopes his team is able to pull from not only their experience this season, but their big-game test a year ago in their 1-0 loss to Battle Mountain.
“That game still to this day stands out in my mind. I am sure it does in the girls’ minds too. At one point, I took a second to look at the fans that were out there. I am so ingrained usually with what’s going on, then halfway through I looked up there was at least 300 people surrounding the field,” Barna said. “It was just a great way to end the season even though we lost. And we did it all on the arm of Amanda Harris, my freshman, at the time.”
Besson tonight will try and shoulder as much of the load as she can in the circle. She brings a good bit of experience which Barna likes.
“She’s got a great attitude and loves having the pressure,” Barna said. “We expect her to throw well. We just need to hit, score some runs and play defense behind her and good things will happen.”
Having faced North Valley Tuesday has hopefully prepared the Whittell hitters for what’s in front of them today.
“North Valleys pitching was the best we’ve seen all season, and that includes Mel [Smith],” Barna Said. “I mean Mel was tough, but the North Valley pitcher Tuesday was really good. She had a change-up that kept fooling us up. They were tied for the third seed in 4A so they are a good team.”
Smith, a South Tahoe High School senior, has struck out 196 batters on the season and pitched a no-hitter versus Sparks Wednesday.
Four teams out of this weekend’s playoff series will make it to zones next week in Lovelock. The top seed went to Yerington who will face West Wendover. Second seeded White Pine will get Battle Mountain while Whittell hosts Silver State. In the four against five matchup it will be Lovelock hosting Incline.
Should Whittell get through, they’ll take on the winner of White Pine and Battle Mountain a week from today.