Injuries to ace pitchers for Devils, Warriors
The 9-5 win for Dayton High at home against Whittell High on Thursday had an immediate effect on the Division II playoff race. The win kept the Dust Devils undefeated in division play (3-0) and gave the Warriors (3-1) their first loss of the year.
But Thursday’s game was also likely to have a long-term effect on the division playoff race, as both teams’ ace pitchers – Whittell’s Brandon Lee and Dayton’s Bobby Nylen – suffered injuries during the game.
Lee, who started the game for the Warriors, pulled a muscle in his back on a pickoff play in the third inning. Lee was replaced on the mound in the fourth by Bryce Schussel, but he remained in the game at second base and even hit a two-run homer in the fifth. Whittell coach Don Amaral said he planned to rest Lee for a few days to allow the pitcher to heal.
Nylen, the Dust Devil starter, injured his right shoulder also in the bottom of the third when he slid on a play at the plate. Nylen was taken to the hospital by his parents where he was diagnosed with a partially separated shoulder, and doctors told him he would be out of the lineup for 2-3 weeks.
“We’re very concerned about Nylen – we’ve got to make sure we get him back playing for us,” said Miller before he knew of Nylen’s diagnosis. “(Nylen’s absence) would affect us pitching wise, but we’ve got other kids who can ‘bring it’ for us.”
One of those pitchers Miller was referring to was Shane Van Zant, who relieved Nylen in the fourth and picked up the win for Dayton. He pitched four innings, allowed just two earned runs and struck out seven Warriors. Van Zant also had an excellent day at the plate, going 3-for-4 with two doubles, a triple and three RBIs.
Van Zant downplayed his all-around ball game.
“I just try to help out the team as much as possible,” said Van Zant, a junior who transferred to Dayton from Carson High. “It’s a team thing.”
Dayton took an early 1-0 lead in the second when Van Zant, who had doubled and advanced to third on a fielder’s choice, scored when Lee made a wild throw on a pick-off attempt.
The Dust Devils upped their lead to 4-0 in the third when the Warriors fell prey to the blustery conditions at the Dayton field which, in comparison, made a bad day at Wrigley Field seem like a calm day. During the inning, Dayton’s Matt Sumsion was able to score on an infield-fly rule ball that wasn’t caught, and Van Zant recorded an RBI double on a ball down the left field line that appeared to be going foul but blew back into fair ground.
“The wind here plays a negative role with any ball club, whether you’re the home team or not,” Miller said. “During our last few practices we’ve been fielding a lot of fly balls just because of the wind – I’m glad we did.”
But Whittell, the early surprise team of Division II with its undefeated record, came back to cut the Dayton lead to 4-2 in the fifth on Lee’s home run which also scored Joe Piccola. The Warriors continued to show a never-say-die attitude in the top of the sixth when they scored three runs on a homer by Piccola right after surrendering five runs to Dayton in the bottom of the fifth, which left Whittell behind 9-2.
“Whittell has a better ball club this year than I’ve ever seen before,” said Miller, now in his sixth season as Dayton’s coach.
Amaral said his team would be anticipating its rematch with Dayton at Lampe Park on April 13.
“We lost, but Dayton is a very good team,” Ameral said. “This was a big building step for us and we’ll be looking forward to getting them back at our place next week.”
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