Whittell’s State hopes lay in Lovelock
LOVELOCK, Nev. – Each of the Nevada 2A schools who come into today’s Northern League tourney in Lovelock are confident in saying, “we have what it takes to get to the Nevada State High School championship.”
Two baseball teams are destined for Virgin Valley High School in Mesquite, where, next Thursday, Friday and Saturday teams will decide who gets the 2011 NIAA baseball championship.
On the girls softball front it will be Yerington, Incline, White Pine and Whittell who are battling for two spots. They will then advance to the NIAA State Softball Championships to be played at The Meadows School in Las Vegas, May 19-21.
Starting on the baseball diamond, the two-seeded Warriors’ focus remains on the prize as they come in to this morning’s 11:30 a.m. matchup with Pershing County looking to do just about everything they can to keep the pressure on the three seed.
Pressure is something this Whittell Warriors team knows all to well about. After going 33-4 a year ago, and bringing home the 2A championship, their head coach has a pretty solid idea of what it will take to bring home another one. And that starts with discipline and smart play.
“We’ve had a pretty good week of practice,” Teevan said. “Our first goal is to win that zone championship and get the one seed going to State. But we really need to focus if we’re going to do that.”
Back in April, Pershing leaned on the strength of a two-hit performance they got on the mound from Brian Smokey, their ace. It butted heads with Alex Vogt’s three hitter on Whittell’s side. The end result was a 4-3 Pershing County win that sets the stage for today’s re-match between the 20-9 Warriors and 17-12 Mustangs.
On the other side of the double-elimination style bracket today is Yerington and Battle Mountain who’ll face off in the 9 a.m. tourney opener.
Whittell arrived in Lovelock yesterday afternoon and will be on hand to watch game one. It means they’ll get to see just who’ll they’ll face in game two today.
Should they lose they’ll play back-to-back. If they win, they move into the semifinal of the four-team bracket and need only one more win to get back to the State championships in Mesquite.
The two teams’ battle in early April sets a pretty indicative tale of what fans might expect today from both squads. Each will likely bring the same flame-throwing starter to work for them on the mound – Smokey for Pershing v. Vogt for Whittell.
Smokey (5-3) went a total of 45 innings for Pershing County this season. In those 45 innings of work, he posted an earned run average of 4.04 – giving up 46 hits while also striking out the same number, 46.
In the games he’s lost, his demise seems to have been the long ball. Smokey has given up four, and a grand total of seven extra-base hits overall. Six of those came in two games – both of which Pershing County lost.
Whittell knows Smokey well as he pitched a complete game, earning the win against them back on Apr. 2.
“We’ve been kind of focusing on him all week,” Teevan said of Smokey. “We know that once they get past him, they don’t have much. Teams that have done well against him have had to hit his fastball. He’s got a good one. When he is on, he’s moving his pitches around, up and down. When he’s off, he gets hit. We just hope (Friday) he’s off.”
Going for Whittell today is Vogt. Over the past two weeks, especially, the Warriors’ senior has been almost un-hittable – teams scratching just four earned runs against him in his last five appearances. Three of those appearances were complete game wins for the lefty who has some pretty good statistics to fall back on as well.
He’s worked 36.7 innings this year for Whittell – allowing just 18 earned runs for a 3.39 average. He’s allowed just 24 hits all season, hasn’t allowed a homer and has struck out 57 compared to just 17 walks.
“He’s definitely got some confidence built up over his last few starts,” Teevan said. “When he’s on he’s almost unhittable, and he keeps us in the ball game when maybe our offense isn’t clicking like it should.”
Looking toward things at the plate, Pershing posts a bit better batting average overall this season, .363 compared to .349 as a team for Whittell, but the on base percentage is near even which highlights the top of the order for Whittell, especially leadoff hitter Taylor Weik who with just a .342 average at the plate is getting on base one out of every two times he makes a plate appearance. With that he’s scored 40 runs, knocked in an additional 22 and is slugging .430 on the year.
Along with being their teams ace on the mound this season, both Smokey and Vogt have also been amoung the statistical leaders in hitting for their respective clubs. Smokey has posted a robust .402 average so far this year. He’s also notched 35 hits, scored 23 runs and knocked in 21.
He is one of six hitters in the Pershing lineup who’s batting over .400 on the season. The others include his brother Kemeron Smokey who’s batted .422, slugged .511, scored 29 runs and has knocked in a team high 23. Jared Jensen leads the Pershing team with an average of .456. He also has an on base percentage (.570) and slugging percentage (.559) worth mentioning.
Seth Montes leads Pershing in runs scored with 38. He’s also stolen a team high 16 bases which makes him a dangerous guy out of the leadoff spot.
For the Warriors, Vogt leads the team with a .457 average. He’s scored 35 runs on 42 hits and leads the team with 46 runs batted it. As an NIAA All-State selection a year ago, he looks to be headed in that direction again after posting season best’s in a number of categories.
Just as impressive at the plate has been fellow All-State selection Alex Potnick. He’s hit .435 on the season, scored a team high 43 runs, notched 40 hits, knocked in 36 and slugged at a .750 pace. Add that into the equation with Weik, Vogt, freshman catcher Matt Elliot and the late emergence of sophomore Robbie Poet and senior Julian Washalefsky and the Warriors lineup has proven it can produce – one thru nine.
Poet’s hit at a .362 clip this season. He’s scored 14 runs and posted 17 hits to go along with 12 RBI’s in just 20 games.
“Robbie has stepped up and is doing pretty well, but there are some others that still need to do the same,” Teevan said. “The further along we get along in this thing, the better pitching we’re going to see. Our hitters need to continue to make adjustments and get better with each game.”
Washalefsky’s been impressive this season also. In 29 games he’s batted .366. His 30 hits ranks third on the team. He’s also scored 26 runs and knocked in 18 to go with a couple of doubles and two home runs.
The power numbers for Whittell are eye-popping. They’ve bashed 33 doubles as a team this season. That goes with 15 triples and 11 home runs.