Warriors pursue first state title in 22 years
There is only way to describe the Whittell baseball team – confident.
After running through league with only a single loss, the Whittell nine has every reason to be excited about their Nevada state-title chances this weekend in Mesquite.
“I would love to have my last high school game to end in a state championship,” senior centerfielder Matt Olsen said.
The Warriors bring a gaudy 24-8 record into the Nevada 2A state tournament and have their eyes set on their first state title since 1979 when they played in the 1A.
“We’re ready and we’ve had this vision since the beginning of the season,” Warrior manager Don Amaral said. “The key for us is staying in the winner’s bracket.”
If Whittell does stay in the winner’s bracket, the team will only have to win three games en route to the title.
Three wins isn’t much to ask from the strong pitching staff that the Warriors’ possess.
Led by Brandon “The General” Lee and Chris Hannum, the staff can go four or five pitchers deep, if needed.
Lee was undefeated in league and boasts a .15 earned run average, while Hannum was 6-1 with an impressive 2.52 ERA. Emerging star Joe Piccola has quietly become one of the most consistent closers in the league.
The senior has an ERA of .95 with 11 strikeouts.
“I never really pitched before this year,” Piccola said. “I just go in there and try to throw strikes and work fast to keep the pace up.”
Lee, Hannum and Piccola also wield some pretty potent bats as the entire starting nine for the Warriors can put the ball in play.
As the leadoff hitter, Hannum leads the squad in runs batted in with 36 and carries a .606 average into this weekend’s action.
“He’s averaging about two RBIs a game,” Amaral said. “That tells me that my seven, eight and nine hitters are doing their jobs.”
The top of the lineup is loaded with power hitters. First baseman Thomas Hunter and Olsen are both batting over .400 and spearhead the attack.
“We’ve had a great year,” Hunter said. “With Chris over here starting it all has really helped us.”
Hannum, who transferred from South Tahoe, is just happy to be playing in the postseason.
“It’s definitely better than ending with the regular season,” the senior shortstop said. “It’s amazing; it really hasn’t sunk in yet.”
It will definitely sink in when the Warriors take on Needles in the opening round game at 1 p.m. on Thursday.
“They’re a good team,” Amaral said. “I haven’t seen them as much as I’ve seen Battle Mountain, but I know they’re going to be a tough opponent.”
Battle Mountain will square off with Hawthorne at 10 a.m.
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