Schussel strikes against Squaw Valley
GARDNERVILLE – So far, so good.
The Whittell High baseball team used a dominant pitching performance from ace Bryce Schussel to outlast Squaw Valley, 9-7, Wednesday at Lampe Park in the season opener for both teams.
“We’re real happy. We overcame some first-inning, first-game jitters and we had some players out there who had never played before,” said Whittell coach Doyle Wilson, in his first game with the Warriors. “I’m very proud of them. We had a great effort and … we’re on our way now.”
Schussel (1-0, 5.20 ERA) went seven innings for the complete-game victory, striking out 15 with a combination of well-placed curves and fastballs. Schussel yielded just two walks, five hits and four earned runs in his first outing of the season.
“Mainly my curve was working pretty well. In the later innings, I started using my fastball a little more because the (Squaw hitters) started catching up,” Schussel said. “But we’re just out there having fun and I’m trying my best and we’re all enjoying it.”
Down 2-0, Whittell took back control of the game in the third inning. Catcher Matt Olson started the rally with a double to left-center. Schussel followed with a strikeout, but an errant baseball sent him to first base and scored Olson for the team’s first run. Shortstop Trent Gordon stroked a single, driving in Schussel and advancing to second on the throw to home plate. Brandon Lee reached base on a fielding error and a walk to Thomas Hunter loaded the bases for third baseman Joe Piccola. Piccola came through in the clutch, hitting a frozen rope up the middle to drive in two and give Whittell a 4-2 lead after three.
The Warriors added another run in the fourth. Tied at four, freshman Berret Terry started the rally with a walk, advanced to second on a wild pitch and scored on an RBI double from catcher Matt Olson.
Whittell added a pair of insurance runs in both the fifth and sixth innings to give the team some additional breathing room. Piccola led off the fifth with a single and soon touched home plate after a steal and two Avalanche wild pitches. DeNunzio drew a walk, moved to second on a Chris Evans groundout and later scored after a pair of wild piches sent him plateward.
Schussel again helped his cause in the sixth, knocking a base hit to right to start the inning. Gordon walked, and Lee belted a single, scoring Gordon and Schussel to give the Warriors a 9-5 lead.
“It’s very exciting just to get a win like this under our belts,” said Schussel, whose brother Brett also plays for the Warrior baseball team. “We had a good time, and hopefully we can get to .500 like the coach wants for us.”
Squaw Valley gave Whittell a scare in the top of the seventh. After fanning the first two batters, Schussel handed out a pair of free passes to Squaw juniors Taro Hart and John Parker. A fielding error by Lee at second base loaded the bags with Avalanche runners, and Squaw senior Cash Poulsen came through with a single to score two.
With the winning run at the plate, Schussel regained his composure and struck out sophomore James Willits on three fastballs. Schussel pumped his fist and walked off the mound with the complete-game win.
“In the last inning, I struck out two in a row and I was just trying to have a little more fun,” said Schussel, who struck out the side twice Wednesday against the Avalanche. “I kind of got a little wild for a second and then I brought it back under control.”
Wednesday’s contest marked the inaugural appearance for the Squaw Valley baseball team, playing for the first time in school history as a varsity program.
“We’re totally pleased with these guys, especially for our first game ever,” said Avalanche coach Kevin McAnerney, whose squad featured two female players. “If we can just get our pitching together, we still may not win a whole lot of games, but we can play competitively.”
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