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Young faces brighten future for Warriors softball

It’s fitting Whittell High School’s softball program begins its post-Aurora era by lighting a candle instead of cursing the darkness.

Bright young faces have kept hopes from dimming for the Warriors. Whittell was light on experience last year, and got younger in the off-season with the subtraction of graduated Aurora Terry, Vanessa Brewer, Georgia Novotny and Sarah Van Cleemput. But youth allowed Whittell’s underclassmen plenty of playing time in the 1998-99 season, and 14 Warriors who return from last year are sophomores and juniors.

“It’s kind of exciting because I get to kind of be a role model for the other girls, and kind of show what I know,” said Warriors pitcher Meredith Shaw, one of the most experienced players on this year’s team as a junior. In fact, Shaw, Jocelyn Mata and Caitlin Fagan (who played softball as a freshman before switching to spring soccer last season) are the only juniors, and Cressida Broten the only senior on Whittell’s roster.



“I think a lot of them have potential,” said Warriors sophomore Stephanie Evans, a player head coach Lindsay Wines anticipates playing virtually every position in the field this year. “If they work hard at it, they can do well.

“I think we can win a couple of games this season, hopefully do better than last season, so my senior year we can do really well,” said Evans, likely Whittell’s cleanup hitter.



Wines isn’t a coach who minces words, so that she said Whittell can win some games after going 1-13 overall last season is significant. But while that’s a possibility this year, Whittell’s real emphasis is on the future.

Wines has the material to build a successful program in the future, but many of the 11 freshmen are learning the game for the first time.

“I think they’ve actually been pretty good,” Wines said.

Whittell initially will try to win with athleticism. Even the players who are learning the game from the veterans have demonstrated their prowess on other fields, courts and race courses.

“I’ve got a whole lot of athletes,” Wines said. “Having the athletic ability definitely helps, especially when we’re talking about defense.”

While only two freshmen, second base Ashley Wines, the coach’s daughter, and outfielder Cherae Nitzel likely will start, Whittell will lean heavily on the rookies. Kendall Spingola impressed her coach with her athleticism since joining the team recently, and Kathy Kiger will push for playing time, too. The key for the young players is just getting used to selling out on defense.

“We don’t need girls to be afraid, because defense is probably all we have,” Shaw said. “We need to hustle.”

Evans agreed:

“Meredith is a good pitcher, and we have a good defense behind her, so if we play good defense, we’ll be fine,” she said.

Inexperience, though, may hurt Whittell’s offense. While the team impressed its coach with its ability at the plate in Saturday’s first outdoor practice, softball still is a new sphere for some of Whittell’s players.

The squad’s lone win last season came against Virginia City. While Whittell may struggle against league powers Manogue, Yerington and Dayton, the coach is confident Whittell can compete. That makes games like Incline (March 23 and April 20), Hawthorne (an April 29 doubleheader) and Lovelock (a May 6 doubleheader) particularly important.

“It’d be nice to beat them,” Evans said of traditional rival Incline.

But as much youth as Whittell has, there’s a glimmer of hope that this could be the year things get better. At least the coach thinks so.

“I think we’ll win some games this year,” Lindsay Wines said. “I think we’re all pretty much learning to win some games this year and get ourselves established.

“I’m confident we’re going to win some games this year.”

BREAKOUT

Warriors softball:

1998-99 record: 1-13

Manager: Lindsay Wines

Players to watch: 1B Ashley Berns, sophomore; C Caitlin Fagan, junior; C/INF Stephanie Evans, sophomore; 2B Ashley Wines, freshman; OF Jocelyn Mata, junior; P Meredith Shaw, junior

Coach’s key: “Last year, we were extremely young,” Whittell manager Lindsay Wines said. “With that behind us, I think the sophomores will step up and want to play more.”

Opener: Friday and Saturday at the Yerington tournament


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