Baseball begins at South Tahoe High |

Baseball begins at South Tahoe High

Michael Traum

The distinctive ping of a 33-inch metal bat, the pop of freshly oiled leather and the carom of a ground ball into someone’s chest – it’s baseball time at South Tahoe High.

Huddled in the gymnasium and spread out in the school’s parking lot, the 1997 Vikings are embarking once again on a pastoral trek into springtime.

“It feels great. Once you put the lid (hat) back on, everything seems to be just right again,” said varsity coach Ralph Clelan.

Things may be better than “just right” for this year’s squad, as Tahoe returns potentially one of the best pitching staffs in Northern Nevada.

Led by returning hurlers Greg Gerken, Greg Bruso and Brett Uppendahl and with the help of Sergio Rodelo and lefty Matt Williams, the Vikes will look to bump off some unsuspecting foes.

“I see talent when I look at this team. (The other teams) don’t think much of us. We’re going to surprise some people,” said Bruso, who plans to introduce a changeup to complement an 85-mph fastball. “My arm feels good. I just have to keep healthy.”

A total of six players return from last year’s 10-20 squad. While the record wasn’t exactly what Clelan had hoped for, the Vikes finished just three games out of the playoffs.

“We’re banking on the pitching staff. We’re going to need all of those guys,” he said. “We could go with three different lineups. Whoever hits is going to play. This group of kids is excited to play. We believe in them. They’ve just got to believe in themselves.”

The key for the 19 Vikings will be to split the doubleheaders, according to Clelan. With a tough schedule that features a six-game stretch against Wooster, Carson, Sparks and Douglas, the whole team will have to come to play.

“Every game counts. This team won’t roll over for anyone,” Clelan said.

Returning catcher Chris Barna, one of three seniors, said he’ll be focusing on relaxing at the dish.

“Coach told me to just enjoy my senior year – to relax and put the ball in play,” Barna said. “People will look at us and see only three seniors and think we’re a pushover. We won’t be a super power, but we’ll be in games and play sound, fundamental ball.”

One big loss will be at second base. Mike Griffis, who is now at Santa Rosa JC, hit near .650 last year. But Clelan isn’t worried.

“A kid like that doesn’t come around that often. We’re not looking to fill his shoes,” Clelan said. “If we can finish .500, I think we’ll be right there.”

The Vikings will play on a diamond for the first time on Saturday when they scrimmage Bishop Manogue in Reno.

The junior varsity squad also begins scrimmage play on Saturday, a three-way with Whittell and Dayton in Carson City.

“I’m excited about this season. These kids are energetic and want to work hard. I can’t say too much until I see us play. But I’m looking for Brian Summerfield and Jeff Jensen to be leaders,” said Ray Fernsten, junior varsity coach.

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