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Warriors zoned in for repeat

Steve Yingling

When the Northern 2A teams take the field against the Whittell High Warriors in the zone baseball tournament Friday and Saturday, intimidation won’t accompany them.

As a result, the Warriors may have Incline, league champion Hawthorne and Lovelock right where they want them — disrespecting the defending champions.

Last year, the Warriors were in a league of their own as they dared any club to play along with them. By season’s end, their trophy case included a clean sweep of league, zone and state hardware.

“Last year, we were so good we almost expected to win,” said WHS senior catcher Brett Schussel. “Teams knew at zone when they were playing Whittell that we were definitely the powerhouse. Everybody is tough this year and nobody is shining way above the rest.”

To repeat as zone champions, the Warriors will need to duplicate how they finished the season. A doubleheader split last weekend at Hawthorne allowed the Warriors to finish 9-7, one game better than manager Don Amaral anticipated.

“The young kids have really come through and played well,” said Amaral, whose Warriors open tournament play against rival Incline at 11:30 a.m. Friday. “I’ve never been around two kids who have made as much improvement in a 10-week period than Tommy (Esquivel) and Chris (Shapiro).”

Shapiro and Esquivel, along with shortstop Brian Vogt, comprise a freshman class that Amaral starts. They are no longer freshmen in the eyes of their teammates.

“We know how good they can play,” Schussel said. “I don’t feel anymore like we’re starting a freshman or sophomore. Whoever it is is part of the team.

“They’ve grown so much improving their play and their outlook on the team.”

With seven hitters batting better than .400 against league competition, the Warriors have the offense to win the double-elimination tournament. Pitching, however, is where they may have a decisive edge in the tournament format.

Junior Travis Purdy is 4-2 against the league, including a 2-1 mark against Incline, and has a 2.06 earned run average. Amaral plans to start Purdy on Friday, while Incline is expected to counter with Robert Lane, who is 1-1 against the Warriors.

“Travis has been changing his speeds really well against Incline … working the ball away, and they try to pull everything,” Amaral said.

Tyson Frederick (4-2, 2.86 ERA) and Shapiro (1-0, 4.73 ERA) give Amaral the luxury of three starters to share the workload. Kyle Olsen can also give Amaral some much-needed innings in relief.

“If we need them, they’re there,” Schussel said. “I’m confident in every one of them.”

Repeating as zone champs is something the Warriors think is well within their reach.

“We’re playing our best ball of the year right now, so we’re in good shape,” Amaral said.

“Right now is when we’re starting to peak, so it’s going to be the perfect time of the season for us to play zone,” Schussel said.

Only the tournament champion advances to next week’s Nevada 2A state tournament.


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