A Young man’s game(s)
Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of four stories honoring the high school athletes of the year at George Whittell and South Tahoe:
By Steve Yingling
Tribune sports editor
No game better emphasized how important Jeff Young was to the Whittell High Warriors than his pitching performance at Lovelock on May 5.
Facing a Mustang club that hadn’t lost in the Northern 2A League to that point and would go on finish second in the state, the Whittell High senior demonstrated in one extended game what kind of competitor he is.
Young heroically pitched 10 innings, building an absurd 140-pitch count. Sixteen Mustangs struck out that day and Whittell left Lovelock with a 5-3 upset win.
“I never dreamed of pitching 10 innings. It was a miracle,” Young said. “I was really pleased how I threw and kept my composure for the whole 10 innings.”
But Young was much more than an overpowering pitcher for Whittell in 2005-06. He was one of the top hitters in the state, a three-point specialist on the basketball team and the quarterback, kicker, punter and defensive back for the football team.
He was a typical three-sport athlete, standing out on each of his three teams. That excellence convinced the Tahoe Daily Tribune to make Young its Whittell High School athlete of the year.
“It probably shows that I’m a gifted athlete,” said Young, who transferred to Whittell from Douglas High in Minden during his sophomore year. “I just go out and do my hardest in whatever I do.”
While Young was a major reason why the Warriors qualified for the postseason in baseball for the seventh straight season, he also experienced the torment sports can dole out. He took more than his share of defeats with dignity and composure.
The football team went winless for the second straight season, meaning Young never experienced a gridiron victory at Whittell.
“Everyone wishes they can win and everyone wins and loses,” Young said. “I like to just go out and have fun. It’s not every day that you get to play sports consistently for three years. I wanted to go out and have fun with my sports and make my senior year count.”
Even though the losses mounted in football, opposing coaches took notice of Young’s ability. He was selected first-team all-league as a punter, defensive back and placekicker and second-team all-state defensive back. He converted all three of his field goal attempts and averaged 41 yards per punt. Those numbers translated into Young being selected for the upcoming Sertoma Classic in Sparks.
Young’s father, Dennis, had the unique pleasure to coach his son in football and basketball. He came away impressed, not only with his son’s athletic feats, but how he handled the dicey situation of being coached by his dad.
“It was so much fun to watch him,” Dennis said. “Jeff earned everything he got and it wasn’t because of his dad. I know I got criticized for it, but he proved himself on the field.”
When they disagreed, father and son took their concerns into private.
“He and I got into a couple of shouting matches, no doubt, but it was done in the proper place, not in front of everyone,” Dennis said.
Jeff respected each other’s roles with the Warriors.
“If there’s bickering, it’s best to be done in quiet. He was the coach, I was just a player,” Jeff said. “It’s been a pleasure playing under my dad.”
Whittell didn’t fare much better on the basketball court, winning three games and losing all 10 league contests. Yet, Young averaged 16 points per game while draining 70 three-point shots and shooting 75 percent from the foul line.
League coaches recognized him as a second-team selection.
But baseball has been his passion and will play a key part in his future.
“He’s a tremendous competitor,” said Whittell baseball coach Don Amaral. “He’s a man, but he plays baseball as if he’s a kid. By the second inning he’s totally dirty. He really gets after it.”
On an inexperienced club where Amaral was forced to start five players with limited or no baseball experience, Young made the best of the up-and-down season and was selected Northern 2A Co-MVP.
“I’ve always been one of the captains since my freshman baseball season at Douglas. It was fun working with all of the kids. It was something good for me to do, to help them out and get them better,” Young said.
Young went on to hit .529, belt two homers, swipe 10 bases and drive in nine runs in Whittell’s 10 league games. He was nearly automatic stealing bases, swiping bags 46 while being caught just once during his final two seasons.
When Young was on the mound, the Warriors could compete with any team in Class 2A. He defeated state tournament qualifiers Battle Mountain and Lovelock and routinely his strikeout totals reached double figures. He accounted for five of the Warriors’ 10 wins, including a 4-2 league record. Young compiled a 1.73 league earned run average and struck out 89 batters in 47 innings work.
As dominant as Young was on the mound, Whittell’s season ended with their ace on the bump against Silver Stage in the regional tournament. Young surrendered a grand slam on an 0-2 count and two out in the last of the seventh inning, wiping out a 6-5 Whittell lead.
“I give him credit,” Young said of the Silver Stage hitter. “I should have never thrown a fastball. That’s just baseball; it’s a game.”
The competitor in Young probably wouldn’t give in if he could turn back the clock.
“I’d actually still throw the fastball,” he said. “I’d definitely challenge him again and see what he would do.”
Although Young isn’t 100 percent certain, he will likely further his baseball career next season at Cerro Coso in Ridgecrest, Calif.
“I have an opportunity to play college ball and get an education where I’m playing baseball,” Young said. “I want to get an education and get better playing at the next couple of levels.”