Warriors shoot for .500 in ’99
Whittell High baseball coach Doyle Wilson passed out brand new baseball caps to his young team before Tuesday’s practice. A yellow cursive “W,” stitched into the chapeau’s fire-engine red background, probably stands for Whittell. Or maybe Warriors. But if you listen to Wilson long enough, you get the feeling it stands for “win,” because that’s exactly what his positive attitude seems to dictate for the Warriors in ’99.
“My goal, and it’s one I’ve been talking to the players about, is to hopefully get at least .500 this year,” said Wilson, who takes over for departed coach Brian Geimer. “Once we have everyone healthy, we could go .500. It’s a possibility. It’s optimistic, but I think it’s a good possibility.”
Wilson will bring an aggressive style of play to the Warriors, using a blend of intelligent baserunning and situational hitting to put runs up on the scoreboard. Wilson has singled out the infield as one of the team’s major assets and hopes a young – but talented – pitching staff can continue to grow as the season progresses.
“I think we have a pretty strong group overall. I’m looking at a pretty strong infield as soon as everybody gets healthy,” said Wilson, who already has three players nursing injuries.
The team is dominated by underclassmen, with 11 of the team’s 16 players coming from the freshman and sophomore classes. Though it is still early in the season, Wilson said he expects Thomas Hunter (1B), Trent Gordon (SS), Brandon Lee (2B) and Joe Piccola (3B) to man a strong infield; freshman Nick Grasso will back up Lee at second base. Roving the outfield will be Mason Kalashian, Tony DeNunzio, Mike Kiger, Chris Evans, Mitch Stromberg, Pedro Salinas, Frankie Ayalla and Hunter.
On the rubber will be ace Bryce Schussel, Gordon, Hunter, Ayalla and Lee.
The team will open the season today against Squaw Valley at Lampe Park in Gardnerville. From there, the Warriors will travel to Lovelock for a tournament Saturday before returning to Lampe for a date against Virginia City on March 23.
Wilson hopes his young team can pick up some early victories to get the proverbial ball rolling in the right direction.
“It’s nice to have a few early wins to keep morale going. The core that we had last year sees an improvement already in the team,” Wilson said. “It should be important to pick up a few in the early going, but we won’t be devastated if we don’t.”
The skipper position has been a revolving door for Whittell baseball over the last decade, as 10 coaches have come in gone in as many years. Wilson, who has logged several years of youth coaching in Oregon and Washington, promises a fresh attitude to a program that went 3-16 last season.
“I think it’s going to be a welcome change for them from last year,” Wilson said. “I think the kids are going to have a good time this year, and I look forward to the rest of the season with them.”
With a new coach, there is often a transition period where players and coaches alike feel each other out for styles and abilities. Such is the case with Wilson and his Whittell players, and the early returns are positive.
“I think we have a pretty good core of kids who seem to like most of what I’m doing,” said Wilson, who also teaches at Whittell. “I try to make it fun for them more than anything else. Not as much ‘win-at-all-cost’ sort of thing. I’m more ‘let’s enjoy the season’ and learn something while we’re out here.”
Wilson readily admits to knowing very little about his team’s opponents, but he doesn’t seem too worried.
“I don’t know anything about our competition. Absolutely nothing,” he said. “I don’t care though. No school scares me. We’ll just go out there and do our best.”
Coach: Doyle Wilson, first season with Whittell; Asst. Coach Craig VanNort
1998 Record: 3-16
Returning Seniors: Three
Probable Starting Lineup: C Brett Schussel, 1B Berret Terry, 2B Brandon Lee, SS Trent Gordon, 3B Joe Piccola, OF Tony DeNunzio, OF Thomas Hunter, OF Mason Kalashian
Probable Pitching Staff: Bryce Schussel, Trent Gordon, Frankie Ayalla, Thomas Hunter, Brandon Lee
Season Opener: Today vs. Squaw Valley
He Said It: “I’ve got a few things up my sleeve that I’m bringing from other places that these (other) high schools might not have seen.” – Doyle Wilson
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