Warrior seniors have gone from one of the worst to first
Four years ago, five Whittell High seniors could never fathom vying for a Nevada state baseball title.
After two years of losing doubleheaders by a combined score of 55-0 and the hope of a winning season dashed too soon to shed any tears, the quintet got a taste of what was to come this season.
Last year, Matt Olsen, Thomas Hunter, Brandon “The General” Lee and Joe Piccola led the Warriors to a fourth-place finish at the Nevada 3A state tournament. And this season, with the addition of Chris Hannum from South Tahoe, they have a chance to become the first baseball squad at Whittell to win the state crown since 1979.
“I never thought we’d have a chance at winning state, but I definitely figured we be up there among the best,” said Hunter, who hit a pair of home runs in the 2A zone title game.
While this year’s version of the Warriors is stacked in the lineup from top to bottom, it has definitely been the seniors who have carried them to the state championship.
“We have the biggest quantity of quality baseball players (per capita) in the state,” Olsen said. “Carson has always been a great baseball school, but I don’t think they can make 10 teams as good as we are.”
The stats of the five seniors back up Olsen’s claim. All five are batting well over .350 and Hannum, Piccola and Lee are among the state leaders from the mound.
Lee, who has been scouted by numerous professional teams, has an undetectable earned run average of .15 and has more than 120 strikeouts on the season.
Hannum has quietly become a very impressive No. 2 starter for the Warriors, going 6-1 in league with a respectable 2.52 ERA.
“The most impressive stat for them is that they average less than a walk per nine innings,” Warrior manager Don Amaral said.
Hannum’s bat has been most impressive, though. The senior shortstop totes a .606 average and leads the team with 36 RBIs as the leadoff hitter.
“This is the first season where I’ve really hit with power,” Hannum said. “I’ve hit my first home runs this season.”
Piccola, the most unheralded of the group, has become a very impressive closer with an ERA of .95. In the off-chance that “The General” or Hannum cannot go the distance, Amaral has a hurler in Piccola who can shut the door on the opposition.
“I just go out there and focus on pitching and the rest takes care of itself,” said Piccola, who is also an All-State soccer player.
By winning three games this weekend, the seniors will get the ultimate vindication of their careers – becoming state champs.
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