Warriors sky high for first playoff game in eight years
Dayton High has seen Whittell in its home and road uniforms, but the Dust Devils may not recognize the Warriors when they meet in a Nevada 3A Division II baseball playoff game at 9 a.m. Friday at Bishop Manogue High in Reno.
Since their 9-5 and 12-4 division losses to Dayton last month, the Warriors are hitting the ball more consistently and making fewer errors.
But most of all, the Warriors are healthy.
“We’re healthy and we’re hitting the heck out of the ball,” said Whittell skipper Don Amaral. “My kids are very confident going into this ball game. We know that we didn’t play well against Dayton. We gave them too many outs.”
And unlike the rest of the league, Dayton has yet to see a 100 percent Brandon “General” Lee on the mound for a full game.
Lee only pitched into the second inning before leaving the mound with a pulled back muscle April 6 in Dayton. He didn’t pitch in the second loss to the Dust Devils.
“He has grown a lot since the last time he pitched against them,” Amaral said. “His fastball is about 7 mph faster. They like to run and Brandon does a really good job of holding runners on base.”
The “General” is exceptional with his control as well. The junior right-hander has allowed just five walks in 39 innings. He’s struck out nearly two per inning with 61 strikeouts.
“I want another crack at them,” said Lee, whose latest outing was a playoff-clinching one-hit, 14-strikeout performance against Lovelock last Saturday.
Dayton (22-10-1, 8-4 division) figures to counter with Bobby Nylen or Chad Van Saant on the mound.
“They are right-handers who throw the ball pretty good … in the mid-70s,” Amaral said. “But we’ve hit both of them.”
All four schools know coming into the division playoffs that all it takes for a state tournament berth is two wins.
“Manogue is very tough, so we’ve got to beat Dayton,” said Amaral, whose Warriors played the undefeated league champions better than anybody, losing 4-0 in Reno.
If the Warriors stop Dayton, they’ll come back at 4:30 p.m. and likely play 28-3 Manogue on its home field. An opening loss means the Warriors will play the Manogue-Yerington loser at 2 p.m.
“If we beat Dayton, we’ll throw either Tyson Fredericks or Thomas Hunter in game two,” Amaral said. “But if we lose the first game we’ll come back in the must game with Bryce Schussel.”
Schussel, a senior who limited the potent Miners to only four runs earlier this year, can also expect some extra bump duty if the Warriors are still around on Saturday.
“I might push Bryce more because this is it for him,” Amaral said. “He’s not going to leave anything in the gas tank. He’s really pumped.”
The double-elimination tournament concludes with 9 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. games on Saturday.
Not even an early morning game can dampen Whittell’s playoff enthusiasm.
“Are you kidding? They’re jacked up,” Amaral said. “If the game was at 5 in the morning, they would be ready to go. They’re fired up to represent the community at zone for the first time in eight years.”
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