Vikings plan on hitting on all cylinders in 2001 |

Vikings plan on hitting on all cylinders in 2001

by Steve Yingling

Practicing in the gym, losing and missing postseason play have been common denominators for South Tahoe High’s baseball program on a regular basis.

But a solid core of seniors gives the Vikings optimism going into the 2001 season, which opens Thursday in Carson City.

“Just going for a winning season is a pretty conservative goal, but personally our team id capable of much more,” said Vikings senior first baseman Mike Hennessy. “I’m looking forward to going to the zone tournament. I don’t know how much other people share that view, but personally I see it as very possible.”

Ten returning starters provide a nice blend of pitching, defense and hitting.

“They key for us is that we’ve been able to play together for a year now,” said STHS third-year skipper Doug Russell. “We know the strengths of each other and really work well as a unit.

“Our strength is our hitting, and we have good speed on this team. If we can pitch and play defense, that is what is going to put us over the top.”

Russell is counting on five of his 10 returning regulars spending time on the hill. Seniors Jarred Uppendahl, Toby O’Brien and Ryan Cullen and junior Matt Mora are Russell’s projected starters, with seniors Matt Connelly and Cory Poulen also expected to see some bump duty.

“We’re probably going to go with a four-man rotation because we have four games a week,” Russell said. “It’s a senior-laden staff, so that’s nice. They understand the finer points of pitching. They take a focused approach each time they take the bump.”

Mora was impressive in a scrimmage with Carson on Monday and could be the key to the staff’s success.

“If he’s able to throw inside, he’s going to develop into quite a pitcher,” Russell said.

But if the Vikings are to pull off of one of those rare winning seasons, they will have to play to their strength – hitting.

“We need to score some runs early in each game, and we need to take advantage of RBI situations when they occur,” Russell said.

“Hitting is going to be our greatest asset this year,” Hennessy said. “We have plenty of people capable of hitting home runs and just as many people capable of hitting over .400 for average this year.”

Many of the seniors are versatile position players, giving Russell the flexibility to make pitching changes without weakening the fielding. In addition to pitching Cullen can play shortstop or the outfield; Connelly can pitch and play shortstop; Uppendahl can play the outfield when he’s not pitching; and Poulen pitches and plays outfield. John Capitani will handle most of the catching duties, Mack Christenson will be a regular in the outfield, Hennessy will man first and Mike Tillson will play second base.

“We’re really confident about our defense this year,” Hennessy said. “We had a scrimmage where we played six innings of errorless baseball.”

While the snow load at Todd Fields is less than in previous years, Russell says it may be a month before the club can begin practicing outdoors. The Vikings are scheduled to open its home slate April 12 against Carson.

“You can do more in one day outdoors than you can in three days indoors,” Russell said.

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