Whittell baseball hands Virginia City first league defeat with split
VIRGINIA CITY, Nev. — The Whittell baseball team closed out Div. IV Northern League play with a major statement. The Warriors split with Virginia City in a road doubleheader Saturday, handing the league champion Muckers their first loss in league play.
“It was an important message to send in terms of the way they’ve been beating up on everybody in league,” Warriors head coach Devin Ruby said.
Whittell (21-5, 11-3 I-A Northern) came into the doubleheader needing a sweep of the host Muckers to claim a share of the league title. The Warriors dropped the first game to remove that possibility, but bounced back to leave Virginia City (15-3, 13-1) one win shy of an unbeaten league campaign.
“I told them before the game if they played hard and made the routine plays, we’d be competitive — even if we don’t beat them, just let them know that we’re here,” Ruby said.
In the first game, the Warriors hung with the Muckers before the hosts pulled away for an 8-1 win. Virginia City broke open a close game with five runs in the fifth and sixth innings to secure the outright league championship.
After Virginia City opened the scoring with a run in the bottom of the first, Whittell pulled even in the next half-inning. The Warriors got a run on two hits, and made it 1-1 when Peyton Galli scored on a Muckers’ error.
In the bottom of the third, Virginia City retook the lead on a two-run homer from Carlos Robledo. The Muckers took a 6-1 lead in the bottom of the fifth, and capped the scoring on a two-run homer from Clint Hess in the sixth.
Galli, Chris Evans and Osvaldo Reyes-Lucero recorded a hit apiece against Hess in the loss. Offensively for Virginia City, Hess and Robledo went a combined 4-for-8 with two home runs, a triple, a double and six RBIs.
“Most of their damage comes from those two kids,” Ruby said. “They hit the ball hard in the first game, and their home runs were not cheap — they were way out.”
On the mound for Whittell, Galli pitched a complete game. In 6.0 innings, the freshman allowed eight runs (five earned) on eight hits with two walks.
In the second game of the twinbill, the Warriors stunned Virginia City with a 4-2 win. A stellar start from right-hander Colton Ruby and timely hitting lifted Whittell past the Muckers.
Ruby threw a complete game in the victory, and allowed two runs (one earned) on four hits. The sophomore struck out eight and issued no walks — he held Hess and Robledo hitless with three strikeouts in six at-bats.
“That’s the best I’ve seen Colton throw — he was unbelievable. It was total command and confidence and he couldn’t wait to pitch,” Ruby said. “They didn’t know what he was going to throw — he had them completely off-balance.”
In the top of the fourth, Whittell broke a scoreless tie with a pair of runs off Robledo to take a 2-0 lead. Ruby got in scoring position with a walk and stolen base, then scored the game’s first run on an Evans double to left-center field — Evans advanced to third on a wild pitch and eventually scored on a throwing error.
The Warriors added to their lead with a pair of runs in the top of the fifth, making the score 4-0. Jake Sharp stole second and third base after getting on base with a hit by pitch, and scored when Ruby smacked a double off the left field fence — Ruby later scored from second on an error.
“We finally got to Carlos and they got really upset,” Ruby said.
Virginia City avoided the shutout with two runs in the bottom of the fifth, but couldn’t solve Ruby the rest of the way. Even though Whittell had already wrapped up second place, the win provided a needed boost headed into the postseason.
“Going into Virginia City, it was a little iffy as to where we were confidence-wise,” Ruby said. “Now the kids are really excited and pumped for this weekend — I think we’re back on track.”
Ruby, Evans and Kai Mangaracina each doubled in the win, and accounted for Whittell’s three hits. Ruby and Evans each added an RBI.
“It was exciting and it was fun,” Ruby said. “We had a lot of fans there and a lot of support — a lot of students and parents came, and we had more fans than they did.”
After wrapping up the regular season with a nonleague contest against Sierra Lutheran on Tuesday, Whittell shifts its focus to the postseason. The second-seeded Warriors begin play in the Div. IV Northern League tournament Friday at Wells High, when they face third-seeded Mineral County at 11:30 a.m.
Win or lose, Whittell will play a second tournament game Friday. The double-elimination tourney concludes Saturday, with the top two teams advancing to the Div. IV state tournament.
“This is where we wanted to be — our first goal was to be competitive and try to make zone,” Ruby said. “Now it’s just do what we can and try to get to state.”
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