First, we drive all this way, then you break our windshield
I took the four-hour drive to Battle Mountain, also known as the “Armpit of America,” on Saturday in search of a regional championship for Whittell High. While a Warriors team did indeed hoist the trophy later that day, it wasn’t the one I and most others expected as the fourth-seeded softball team pulled two major upsets on the way to the title.
The Whittell baseball team, which went into regionals hotter than Jessica Alba in a fur coat in Tucson on a July afternoon, didn’t have quite enough pitching to get by annual nemesis Battle Mountain High in the championship game. Both Whittell teams will be heading to the state tournaments that start on Friday, but the odds of the Warriors surpassing the drama and wackiness of Saturday’s action is about the same as the odds of your local sportswriter buying a brand-new Porsche.
Highlights, lowlights and hilarity from Saturday:
Sorry, mom and dad: Whittell junior Tommy Esquivel earned a walk early in the Warriors’ opener against Lovelock, fouling off six two-strike pitches against the Mustangs’ Adam Hyde. Unfortunately, one of those foul balls bounced into the adjacent parking lot and crashed into the windshield of his parents’ car, smashing it and making the long drive home difficult. Esquivel’s dad couldn’t decide if he was upset but made the best of the situation by covering the windshield with epoxy and tape. We all hope they made it home without incident.
Whittell’s big bopper: Anna Kingman has two things in common with Barry Bonds: fathers who had long careers in the major leagues and the ability to strike an irrational fear in opposing managers. League MVP Kingman drew an intentional walk in the final inning of the regional championship game against Incline High despite the fact that she represented the go-ahead run. Putting a runner on base in the passed ball, wild pitch and error-soaked world of high school softball is a huge risk, and sure enough a passed ball moved her to second base. Kingman scored the winning run from second on a groundball to the pitcher, surely a smiting of the Highlanders from the softball gods, especially considering Kingman had popped out with the bases loaded earlier in the game.
A successful suicide: Of course, going with convention isn’t always the way to go. It’s not often a baseball fan will see a team up 12-3 resorting to a suicide squeeze bunt to get another run across, but that’s exactly what happened in the Whittell-Lovelock game. Whittell head coach Don Amaral, coaching third base, sent Chris Shapiro flying to the plate and Brian Vogt laid down a beauty of a bunt to end the game on the 10-run rule.
“If they’re going to go to a full windup with a man on third and less than two outs, I’m going to put the squeeze on,” Amaral said. “If they’re going to hand me the run that ends the game, I’ll take it every time.”
Can’t we all just get along: The Battle Mountain softball players were understandably upset when the Warriors took them down in the semifinal early Saturday, knocking out the region’s heavy favorite before the state tournament. The teams were sitting a few feet from each other during the baseball final, cheering their respective teams on and engaging in some not-so-subtle, not-so-quiet trash-talk between innings. There weren’t any actual confrontations, but the mutters and tense glances flying back and forth would have made Nelson Mandela hesitant to get between the Warriors and Longhorns.
Love for the bench: The backup players for both Whittell teams made a racket whether their team was winning or losing, keeping their starters loose and the fans in stiches. The most action the baseball bench players saw was during a short water fight before the Lovelock game, as Amaral didn’t use a substitute all day.
– Tribune staff writer Jared Green can be reached at (530) 542-8008 or firstname.lastname@example.org