Vikings believe their time has arrived
Talk has been building the past few years about South Tahoe High’s baseball program ending a longtime run of missing the regional playoffs.
This could be the year.
South Tahoe returns several of the top players in the Sierra Division and has experienced players around the diamond.
“We have a lot of good senior leadership,” said fifth-year skipper Matt Tillson. “A lot of that came where we finished last summer successfully, the idea that we can beat anybody at any time. It’s the first time they believe we can win and should win games, even though the division is real tough.”
For seniors like Kyle DiGrande, it’s a final chance to put to rest a 14-year period when the Vikings have missed the regional tournament.
“We have a chance to do something special this year. If we don’t make playoffs, it will be a disappointment,” DiGrande said. “We know the talent is there. We just have to produce.”
Besides DiGrande, a center fielder and pitcher, Tillson will rely on seniors Matt Marsh, shortstop and pitcher; Chris Ewing, pitcher, catcher and first baseman; and second baseman Derek Holmgren.
“With so many returning players who’ve played together so long, it’s really easy to be a good team,” Holmgren said. “It’s more of a trust thing. I trust my teammates are going to hit the ball when they go to the plate, whereas you don’t trust a new kid because you haven’t played with him yet.”
South Tahoe, however, won’t be at full strength to start the season. Juniors Gary Prescott and Otto Trebotich are expected out until the end of March. Coaches selected Trebotich to the Sierra Division first team last year, and he made the Sierra Nevada Media Group team, as did Prescott. They both lit up league pitchers by hitting near .500 a year ago.
“It will put a dent into us, but we’re strong enough team where we won’t worry about stuff like that,” Holmgren said. “We’re going to have a lot more kids stepping up and taking charge. In the long run, it could be a good thing in a way.”
Even without two of his stars, Tillson likes his team.
“We’re going to be a little thin at the beginning of the year without Gary and Otto,” Tillson said. “But that frees up two spots for kids to come in and show what they can do.”
Tillson said he’s considering Ewing, junior Ricky Braun and sophomore Jamie Yelles for the catcher role. Marsh, an honorable-mention player as a junior, has already seized the starting shortstop position.
“It’s my favorite position and where I feel most comfortable,” Marsh said. “I played shortstop half of the season last year and I’ve been there most of baseball.”
Holmgren earned honorable mention last year and brings plenty of experience to second base. There is competition at third base with Ricky Braun, Yelles and Tanner Braun battling for playing time.
Anchoring the pitching staff is junior fireballer Max DeLallo, whose fastball has been clocked in the mid-to-upper 80s.
“He’s a good horse to have in front of your staff,” Tillson said. “He’s been dominant at times.”
There is experience behind DeLallo. Marsh, Trebotich and DiGrande were successful on the mound last season, and Tillson is excited about junior Matt Blank. Yelles, both Brauns, Christian Winslow and senior outfielder Notanee Vasquez will also be considered for bump duty.
“We like our pitching staff right now,” Tillson said. “We have some depth. We have 10 pitchers who we are comfortable with, but that doesn’t mean all of them will pitch.”
As usual, the weather hasn’t broken the Vikings’ way. The team was a few days from getting on its field before several feet of snow fell on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“We’ve been up in gym more than we have in past, so hopefully it’s going to pay off,” DiGrande said.
Tillson tinkered with his preseason ritual by adding a yoga class once a week for his players.
“It’s a mind-over-matter kind of thing,” Tillson said. “It’s teaching them to control what they can control and finding a focal point.”
DiGrande hasn’t minded the extra stretching.
“It’s been good. It gets everyone loose, and it’s a team-building experience,” he said.
The alignment of the Sierra Division will be different than expected. With Hug not fielding a varsity program, Wooster has been moved to the High Desert League. That leaves the Vikings competing against Galena, Carson, Douglas, Bishop Manogue, Damonte Ranch and Fallon.
“It’s a tough division, so we have our work cut out for us, for sure,” Tillson said. “There are a lot of good teams and a lot of good coaches.
“We think we are more than a playoff team. We think we can win the league if things go right.”
Holmgren wants to beat some of the schools that have been rolling over the Vikings earlier in his career.
“If we could take two games from Douglas and beat Carson and Manogue, I’d be happy,” Holmgren said. “They always go into those games expecting to win. We want to make them realize Tahoe is not a team to miss with anymore.”
Marsh said the Vikings need to make a concerted effort to start the season better.
“We usually start off slow and get better at the end of the season,” Marsh said. “My goal is to make the playoffs this season.”
South Tahoe will scrimmage Whittell and Carson on Saturday starting at 9 a.m. at Carson High School.
STHS Baseball Schedule
Date Opponent Time
March 12 Carson tourney 2 p.m.
March 13 Carson tourney 11:30 a.m.
March 14 Carson tourney 11:30 a.m.
March 14 Carson tourney 2 p.m.
March 19 At Carson 3:30 p.m.
March 21 At Carson (DH) 11 a.m.
March 26 At McQueen 3:30 p.m.
March 28 At McQueen (DH) 11 a.m.
March 31 At Truckee 3:30 p.m.
April 2 At Manogue 3:30 p.m.
April 4 At Manogue (DH) 11 a.m.
April 9 At Galena 3:30 p.m.
April 11 Galena (DH) 11 a.m.
April 15-18 At Gorman Classic TBA
April 21 Rite of Passage 3:30 p.m.
April 23 Fallon 3:30 p.m.
April 25 Fallon (DH) 10 a.m.
April 28 Manogue 3:30 p.m.
April 30 Douglas 3:30 p.m.
May 2 Douglas (DH) 11 a.m.
May 6 Damonte Ranch 3:30 p.m.
May 7 Damonte Ranch 3:30 p.m.
May 8 Damonte Ranch 3:30 p.m.
Note: South Tahoe home games are played at Tahoe Fields on Lyons Avenue.