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Whittell baseball a 2003 state contender

Column by Darin Olde

When Whittell High manager Don Amaral had to put his team in context earlier this year, the ghosts of past, present and future came to mind.

First, Amaral didn’t want to dwell on the fact that many of the players who won Northern Nevada zone and the state 2A title in 2001 were gone, including Brandon Lee, the team’s best player and the state 2A MVP.

Now, he said, Whittell’s field was filled with youth. With catcher Brett Schussel as the only senior starter, Amaral planned to rely heavily on a core of juniors and even some freshman. Chris Shapiro, for example, would make frequent appearances on the mound and freshman Tommy Esquivel would make a steady presence in right field.

His third point focused on the future: We’re going to be good this year, “but watch out for us next year.”

With a second-place finish in the Northern Nevada 2A zone behind Hawthorne with such a young team, Whittell promises to have a powerhouse club next year.

Travis Purdy and Tyson Frederick, two of the team’s three players to make first team all-league, will return as seniors next year.

On the mound, Purdy went 5-3 with a 2.11 earned run average. While giving up 13 runs, he struck out 48 batters.

Frederick, who struck out 10 batters in the team’s semifinal victory against Incline, fanned 70 batters in 47 innings. He went 4-3 with a 2.20 ERA.

The only other player to make first team was Schussel, the Northern Nevada 2A League MVP, who led the league with 24 RBIs. Tyler Corey, who trailed Schussel with 23 RBIs, will have big shoes to fill as the catcher next year, Amaral said.

Making second-team all-league was Kyle Olsen, who will return as a junior and Corey, who will be a senior next year with a .451 average.

Corey, one should note, hit his first grand slam against Incline in the league semifinals with a broken growth plate in his knee. He ran anyway, hobbling from base to base, and boosting his team when it needed it.

Olsen was right behind him hitting .449 for the year. Splitting his time between first base, outfield and pitcher, he will likely emerge as one of the team’s most versatile players.

Ironically, it was Shapiro’s bat that did the most of the offensive damage. The freshman pitcher hit .548, pitched 17 innings and struck out 15 batters to go 1-1 with a 3.50 ERA.

He and Esquivel, who didn’t have any errors this year, made honorable mention all-league.

Moreover, Amaral has strong defensive performances in key games by freshman Brian Vogt, sophomore Sho Kashima and senior Ian Jacobsen.

The team had a hallmark finish in 2001, but lookout Incline, this Christmas Story team is heading to back to the field in 2003.

— Darin Olde can be reached at dolde@tahoedailytribune.com or (530) 542-8008.


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