Season of change: Whittell baseball looks to build off of breakout campaign under new coach Donahue
2016 Regular Season Schedule
March 11 at Yerington L 12-4
March 11 vs. Dayton L 15-2
March 12 vs. Mineral County L 8-2
March 12 vs. Silver Stage W 2-1
March 16 vs. Pershing County L 17-3 / L 11-5
March 21 vs. Yerington JV, 4 p.m.
*March 23 at Smith Valley, 3 p.m.
April 1-2 Quincy Tournament
*April 5 vs. Sierra Lutheran, 4 p.m.
April 12 vs. Pyramid Lake, 2 p.m. (DH)
*April 15 vs. Smith Valley, 3 p.m.
*April 23 at Coleville, Noon (DH)
April 26 vs. Incline (at Greater Nevada Field), 4 p.m.
*April 29 vs. Virginia City, 3 p.m.
*May 4 at Virginia City, 3 p.m.
*May 5 at Sierra Lutheran, 4 p.m.
Home games in bold, played at Lampe Park in Gardnerville
*Div. IV West League contest
The Whittell baseball team enters the 2016 season coming off a breakout campaign that ended one win shy of a Div. IV State championship. For the Warriors to continue that success this year, they’ll have to move forward while coping with change.
“It’s a real benefit to come into a program that has had success in the past and knows what it’s like to win,” said Warriors first-year coach Tobias Donahue. “Expectations are high, and we have to work through the first part of the season and get everyone going.”
Donahue is at the center of the changes, replacing Devin Ruby as head coach. In his only season at the helm, Ruby led the Warriors to a 26-9 record and a state runner-up finish as part of a turnaround campaign. The program won 10 games combined in the three seasons prior.
“I need to get to know the guys, find my niche in the program and build on what they did,” Donahue said. “We would like to contend for league and see what happens in state.”
In his first year at Whittell, Donahue brings experience on the diamond to the Warriors’ program. He played collegiately at Menlo College in Atherton, California, and coached at three different high schools in Colorado — most recently on the staff at Center High School two years ago.
The Warriors had two seniors graduate last year, but also lost a pair of key underclassmen. As a result, the outlook is slightly different for a team that ended 2015 expecting to again contend for a state championship.
“The key is staying positive and not getting too down on the start of the season,” Donahue said. “The returners feel like we should be competing for a state title and they didn’t lose many games last year — we stepped up the competition early and we’re losing a little bit.”
Junior Colton Ruby is Whittell’s top returner at the plate and the on the mound, coming off a season in which he hit .521 with 35 RBIs. Other players back from last year include seniors Quinn Kixmiller, Chris Evans and Armando Rodriguez, juniors Sam Berry and Kai Mangaracina, and sophomores Troy Libert and Andrew Carlisle.
Nine of the Warriors’ 17 players didn’t play varsity baseball last season. That group of newcomers is highlighted by juniors Dismas Womack and Josh Burch along with sophomore Cody Ruby and freshman Gunnar Barnwell — Colton’s younger brother has already made a big impact so far for Whittell.
“We have some new guys in new positions and we have to have patience,” Donahue said. “There’s definitely some difficulty with that.”
Whittell won just one of its first six games, beating Silver Stage (Silver Springs, Nev.) in the Yerington Tournament. The Warriors fell to Yerington, Dayton and Mineral County in tournament play March 11-12, and were swept by Pershing County (Lovelock, Nev.) in a doubleheader Wednesday, March 16, in their home debut at Lampe Park.
“Our starters have done well and kept us in games, and we’ve faced some really good pitching — guys that throw as hard as anyone that we’re going to see,” Donahue said. “Becoming more consistent is going to be important. We seem to have good innings and then we lapse on our focus.”
The Div. IV Northern Region has been split into two leagues for the 2016 season. Whittell is in the West along with Coleville, Sierra Lutheran, Smith Valley and Virginia City; Carlin, Eureka, Mineral County, and Pyramid Lake will play in the East. The Warriors open league play at Smith Valley on Wednesday, March 23.
“Once we get into league play, we want to take the benefits of playing tougher competition and use that against the teams in our league,” Donahue said.
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Incline Village swept the top two boys’ positions on Friday, Sept. 17, in the Fernley Roadhill Invitational.