Warriors face challenges in quest to repeat
One question rose above all others as four Northern 2A teams made preparations for the regional tournament Friday and Saturday in Lovelock: Will Whittell High senior catcher Brian Peat make his season pitching debut for the Warriors?
Battle Mountain coach Worth Nelson was probing for the answer on Sunday night. Nelson’s Longhorns could meet the Warriors in a second-round game Friday.
Whittell ended the suspense on Tuesday night.
“He’s unavailable,” said Amaral, who was contemplating starting Peat to give the Warriors a better chance of qualifying for next week’s state tournament.
With the 2005 Northern 2A MVP behind the plate, Whittell still has one of the best arms in the state in senior Jeff Young. Young demonstrated that last Friday when he struck out 16 in a taxing 10-inning outing where he threw 140 pitches in handing Lovelock its first league loss, 5-3.
Amaral, however, is leaning toward saving Young for an elimination game on Friday afternoon should the top-seeded Mustangs do the expected and dispatch the fourth-seeded Warriors in the tournament opener at 9 a.m.
“It’s tough with one pitcher,” Amaral said. “I’ve been running through the scenarios that I’m going to try and I’m just pleased that we qualified for zone seven consecutive years.”
If Amaral is sounding like a beaten man, perhaps he’s seeing if the other three coaches will take the bait. Amaral has moved the Warriors to within two victories of a seventh state tournament berth in eight years despite beginning the year with five players new to baseball filling starting positions.
Young could pitch as many as 11 innings, but Amaral plans to use him seven or eight frames – with the possibility that he could shuffle his star in and out of the lineup.
“If he sets down the first six batters, I may bring in somebody to pitch to the seven through nine hitters in the third inning,” Amaral said. “I need to figure it out.”
Whatever the scenario, Young is ready to deliver. Despite his heavy workload last Friday, he said he wasn’t sore on Saturday. He threw a live bullpen without any discomfort on Tuesday.
“I’m getting stronger,” Young said. “I’m set for Friday.
“I just go out and throw the ball, play the game of baseball and enjoy it while it lasts.”
Peat developed some soreness while pitching last year. To avoid that discomfort as a senior, the plan was to keep Peat behind the plate so he could focus on the position that he’ll play in college.
But Amaral lost a good chunk of his seasoned starting rotation prior to the season, necessitating that he develop unproven pitchers. The results haven’t been favorable, with the Warriors’ routinely winning when Young is on the mound and losing when he isn’t. Defensive lapses have plagued the Warriors, making it tough on the developing pitchers who rely on plays being made behind them.
“It’s baseball; everyone is going to make mistakes,” Young said. “The last couple of weeks we’ve stepped it up. We’ve improved defensively since the beginning of the season and hopefully we take all of this improvement into the zone tournament.”
R.J Gardner, Chris Craig and Carter Amaral have seen significant time on the bump and will toe the rubber at regionals. Amaral is also considering using freshmen Christian Hernandez and Rio DeLucia in relief.
“I just have to figure out how to win two games and that’s it,” Amaral said. “We don’t have the depth to win zone. Our target was to make it to zone and now it’s to make it to state.”
Young, Peat and Carter Amaral have done most of Whittell’s damage on offense. Young hit .529 in 10 league games with two homers, nine RBI and 10 stolen bases. Peat hit .500 with two jacks and a team-leading 12 RBI. Carter Amaral knocked in nine runs and stole 10 bases while hitting .481.
But Whittell has struggled in the six through nine spots in the lineup, collectively hitting less than .150. As a result, coach Amaral has a trick or two up his sleave to manufacture more runs this weekend.
Because of several shortcomings the Warriors aren’t expected to repeat as regional champions.
“Lovelock looks tough from where I sit, but I think any team can beat any other this year,” Nelson said.
Coach Amaral also likes the Mustangs, but his second pick to advance to state may come as a surprise.
“Because of their depth and pitching, my two favorites to go to state are Lovelock and Silver Stage,” he said.
The tournament continues through Saturday, with the championship set for 12:30 p.m.
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