Prohibitive favorite role suits WHS nine fine |

Prohibitive favorite role suits WHS nine fine

Column by Steve Yingling

From a club that won as often as the Bad News Bears before Tatum O’Neal to a unit that can’t stand to lose, Whittell High baseball has come a long way in two years under Don Amaral.

If Whittell doesn’t win the 2A Northern zone baseball tournament this weekend in Incline Village, it would be an upset of Hasim Rathman proportions.

“I’ve put a lot of pressure on these kids, but all year we’ve only had one goal and that’s to win state,” Amaral said.

Before Amaral arrived in 2000, WHS baseball was one of the worst programs in Northern Nevada. Sorry parents and former players, but there is no use lying. The program had trouble keeping coaches and a greater problem keeping the school’s best athletes interested. For obvious reasons the Warrior golf and track and field teams benefited from the struggles on the diamond.

But in two short years, Amaral has instilled the Warriors with overflowing confidence and given them the fundamental skills necessary to assume the unfamiliar role of prohibitive favorite.

“We were talking the other day about running up scores and they were telling me how much it meant to them beating Dayton 17-3 and Yerington 27-5 when it used to be the other way for them,” said Amaral, whose Warriors outscored league foes 168-21 this season.

Amaral realizes that the double-elimination zone tournament is a perfect setup to bring down an overconfident club, but from what he’s seen on the field early this week, he’s not even considering that possibility.

“We had our best practice (Monday) that we had all year,” Amaral said. “It was like getting ready for a final exam. We’re very comfortable with our (favorite role) and we’re looking forward to going up there and playing.”

With seniors Brandon Lee, Chris Hannum, Thomas Hunter, Joe Piccola and Matt Olsen hitting near the .500 mark and one of the state’s top best deliverers to the plate in Lee, Incline, Tonopah and Hawthorne are in a tougher predicament than Whittell was last year.

Of course, those Warriors came in as the third seed and ended a decade of frustration by qualifying for state with a startling runner-up finish to Bishop Manogue.

A year later, the 21-8 Warriors are the hunted instead of the hunters. And there are a lot of ducks out on the pond.

Was it the depth of the team or U.S. Ski Team officials playing favorites? How can South Shore’s 17-year-old Travis Cabral, the 1999 national champion and a World Cup podium finisher this past season, not be bumped up to the “B” team.

Jeremy Bloom, the Papa John’s Bumps & Jumps overall champion, has to be shaking his head as well. He remained on the “C” team, even though the incoming Colorado freshman receiver will probably be redshirted by coach Gary Barnett.

Then again, with South Lake Tahoe’s Travis Ramos earning a spot on the “A” team and Chris Hernandez making the “B” team, maybe team officials were uncomfortable giving a third upper-level position to a bumper with the same address.

With many of the prep championships unfolding at the same time on Saturday, area fans will be hard-pressed to pick which event to attend. Should they watch STHS sprinter Jake Hurwitz go for his third straight zone 100-meter title in Reno or see WHS’s bid for a zone baseball championship in Incline Village? Also very tempting is seeing how many titles Whittell’s Luke Forvilly will win in the 2A zone track meet in Yerington, or how many of Dale Bogard’s STHS swimmers will qualify for state in Carson City.

But how does one fit in a South Tahoe Little League game that day?

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