Warriors’ rebuilding continues
In his previous eight seasons as Whittell High School’s baseball manager, Don Amaral didn’t come close to enduring a season like he did last year.
Amaral was missing his usual core of experienced juniors and seniors, forcing him to put too many freshmen on the field for long stretches. The Warriors paid the price, winning only four games in 27 attempts.
Consequently, the Warriors missed the regional tournament for the first time under Amaral’s direction. Before last season, five of Amaral’s seven clubs have qualified for the state tournament, including the 2001 state champions.
Other than all-league infielder Carter Amaral and outfielder Anthony Taricco, Amaral won’t have much more experience with his 2008 club.
“We’re definitely young,” coach Amaral said. “We have freshmen who really want to play ball, so that’s good.”
Carter, a second-team all-state selection, hit .480 for his pop in Northern 2A League games on the heels of batting .490 as a sophomore. He also was an honorable mention choice for the All-Sierra Nevada Baseball Team, which is selected from a pool of Northern Nevada players from all classifications.
For his final season, the smooth-fielding second baseman would like to make a run at the league MVP award and first-team all-state honors. But his importance to the 2008 Warriors goes much deeper.
“I love the responsibility,” Carter said. “I’m trying to be another coach. From being around my father for so long, I’ll try to say some things from a peer (point of view).
“It’s a totally different group of kids. Everyone wants to play baseball, and last year they played because their frends were on the team.”
Taricco, a junior who was a second-team all-league pick a year ago, is back after hitting .410 in league play and leading the club with 14 RBIs.
“I’m pretty excited,” Taricco said. “It’s gonna be fun, but we need discipline. We need to show 150 percent (effort) always, even in practice.
“Having a young team is definitely a challenge, but it’s coming together.”
The Warriors lost their top returning pitcher, sophomore Jordan Morgan, to knee surgery following an injury during the basketball season.
“He would have been the No. 3 pitcher in the league this year behind (Wil) Schumacher and (Darren) Boone from Silver Stage,” Amaral said.
Another potential starter isn’t eligible due to disciplinary action and Cody Nelson and Adam Laub, who logged substantial playing time as freshmen, didn’t return to the club. One player who did return, however, is Nick Werner, who will play shortstop.
Last year’s top pitcher, R.J. Gardner, graduated, necessitating that Amaral send a pair of talented freshman pitchers named Alex to the mound. Alex Vogt and Alex Potnick combined for 10 strikeouts in a recent 12-inning scrimmage against Incline that saw the Warriors walk only two batters.
“They are going to grow up quickly,” Amaral said. “They are going to be handed the ball every Saturday.”
Taricco, Carter Amaral, Ben Ward and Julian Washalefsky will also see bump duty. Washalefsky, a freshman, has already caught Amaral’s attention with his velocity.
Sam Harris, who Amaral says is much improved, will handle the catching duties.
Despite a starting lineup that will include at least four freshmen, Amaral believes his young talent will form a respectable team.
“Lovelock and Silver Stage have replaced Whittell and Battle Mountain as the two premier baseball programs in our league,” Amaral said. ” I don’t think we’ll compete with those guys this year, but we definitely will be in postion to be comeptitive with everybody else in the league.”
Amaral’s enthusiasm for his young club prompted him to get one question out of the way several months ahead of time.
“There won’t be any retirement party,” he said.