Gritty Warriors battled back for second at zone
HAWTHORNE — The Whittell High Warrior baseball team went into zone knowing it wasn’t going to steamroll the competition like it did last year.
It did, however, bounce back from an early 10-7 loss to Incline in its opening game on Friday to defeat the Highlanders in the semifinals 7-1 and secure a berth in the championship game against Hawthorne.
But that’s as far as the Warrior’s season went.
Hawthorne dethroned the defending Northern 2A league champions 6-2 after holding a 3-2 lead until the top of the sixth inning.
There were disappointed faces at the end of the game, even tears near the Warrior dugout, but those weren’t from losing to Hawthorne.
Those tears were about saying goodbye after a hard-fought season.
They also could have been from pain.
Brett Schussel, recently elected as Northern 2A league MVP, rolled his ankle getting to first base against Incline in game one.
That injury was compounded after two collisions at home plate in the first three innings of game one. In the second collision, Incline’s Robert Lane was ejected. He missed their second-game loss against Hawthorne.
Tyler Corey, who returned to play this weekend after breaking the growth plate and straining connective tissue in his knee, was a designated batter, but still ran bases at times.
On top of that, Kyle Olsen took a cleat to the calf from an Incline batter sprinting to first base in game one.
Even more painful, Incline took an early lead against the Warriors, going up by two with runs scored by Ryan and Robert Lane in the first inning.
The Lane brothers combined to hit 5 for 8 in the first game, even after the ejection.
The Highlanders went through the entire order in the second against Travis Purdy to score three more runs to take a 5-0 lead going into the third.
A Warrior rally that included a leadoff home run by freshman Chris Shapiro against Incline’s Ryan McDevitt in the top of the third led the team to a 5-5 tie going into the fourth.
But Incline made the plays defensively, and capitalized on Warrior errors to hold on for the win.
The Warriors soon made some noise beating Lovelock 11-1 in five innings in game two.
Schussel hit 3 for 3 and Shapiro, who averaged .555 at the plate in league this season and hit 4-4 with a double and a homer in game one, hit 1 for 3 with a double.
It was the kind of booster the team needed to advance to the semifinals.
“We didn’t field the balls on a couple of plays and that really killed us out there,” said Warrior manager Don Amaral of their opening-game loss to Incline. “But that was (Friday). We’re going to look forward to what we can do (on Saturday).”
The Warriors faced Incline again, after the Highlanders lost to Hawthorne 4-3 in game two.
And for Whittell, the second Incline game is the one it will remember most.
In their 7-1 victory, Corey, a junior, hit his first-ever grand slam over the left-field fence to stretch the Warriors’ 3-1 lead in the top of the sixth to 7-1.
Tyson Frederick pitched the first 6 1/3 innings, striking out 10 batters, only three short of his record 13 in league games.
By the end of the fourth he had recorded eight of the 12 outs.
To end the game, it was all Sho Kashima.
With a runner at first, Kashima caught a hard line drive at second base and threw to first to catch the lead-off batter for a double play.
He then made the final out with a diving catch of Incline’s Chris Spaulding fly ball to end the game.
In the final game against Hawthorne, Purdy hit 1 for 4, Schussel and freshman Tommy hit 1 for 3 and Shapiro hit 1 for 3 with a double.
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