WHS finally has something to worry about over spring break
Spring break won’t be the same for the Whittell High baseball team this week.
Knowing that they’re in the thick of the four-team Division II playoff chase limits the Warriors’ frolicking during their weeklong break from classes.
They won’t have to worry about studying for a chemistry exam, but they’ll have a series of pressing questions to answer:
Will Bryce Schussel and Brandon Lee continue to pitch like all-leaguers? Can the Warriors avoid the defensive lapses which cost them a game against Incline last week? Can they manufacture enough runs to beat the better teams?
Losing a little sleep over baseball sure is a far cry from what the Warriors focused on over spring break the past seven years: “Will we win a division game? Can we keep Manogue from scoring 30 runs? Will we have a different coach again next year? Aw, shucks, let’s go take one more run down Gunbarrel.”
With victories in three of their final four division games, Whittell, 7-9 overall and 3-5 in Division II, can extend its baseball season for the first time since 1991, a team lead by future Stanford pitcher Pete Lusich. Competing in a seven-team division against schools with significantly larger enrollments and a practice and home field 30 miles away, the Warriors have shown what chemistry and hard work produce.
“We all get along, and that works out well in and out of the game,” said Warriors center fielder Matt Olsen.
If only City Council members Tom Davis and Bill Crawford could work in such harmony instead of limiting their communication to the Tribune’s Letters to the Editor column.
First-year manager Don Amaral knows that a late-season losing streak hasn’t eroded his club’s early season confidence. But he was extremely proud – if not a little stunned – when his Warriors didn’t back down from “Mighty Manogue” on Saturday in Reno.
Not only did the Miners wax Whittell 28-1 and 32-0 last year, but the defending state champions hadn’t gone past five innings in a division game before Saturday.
They must have thought, “Let’s finish these guys off in two hours, so we can get home and catch the start of the Giants-Diamondbacks game.”
Manogue showed Whittell that pitching alone might carry it to a second straight state title, but the Miners also learned that the Warriors have matured from a Pillsbury doughboy into one tough cookie.
Senior hurler Schussel checked the Miners on five hits in a 4-0 loss in the opening game of the doubleheader.
“No question the kids were pumped. Manogue is the program we all want to emulate,” Amaral said. “Their coach commended us on the improvement to the program, and I said, ‘We’re working on at it, but we still have long ways to go.”
The Warriors lost the second game, 11-1, but they proved to themselves that they can compete with one of the top teams – if not the best – in the state, barring no classifications.
“We definitely hung in there. We know that we can play the top teams in the league and even in Northern Nevada,” Olsen said.
Olsen doesn’t hesitate with his answer when asked why this club is so full of surprises.
“A big part of it is our coach. He’s definitely come in and turned it around,” Olsen said. “He knows all the tricks of baseball and the little things that we need to win. He’s come in and motivated us, and he knows where and when to play us.”
Seriously, the Warriors probably are a year away from making a serious run at a state title – especially since they’ll drop into the 2A ranks next year – but they are very capable of tasting the postseason in two weeks. That will require reverting to their early season form in the final four games, two coming at Hawthorne on April 29 and a twinbill with Lovelock on May 6 at Lampe Park.
“We can’t underestimate anybody. We have to take everybody as tough as we can,” Olsen said.
The top four teams advance to the double-elimination division tournament May 12-13. Both tournament finalists then qualify for the state tournament May 18-20.
“It’s in our hands. We need to win three of the next four games and we’re in,” Amaral said.
It’s even worth spending the entire spring break worrying about.
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