There haven't been all too many favorable bounces for the Whittell High School baseball team over the past two decades.
The ball bounced Whittell's way on Tuesday afternoon, however, and the Warriors remained undefeated in 3A Division II play when they rallied to pull out a key 3-2 win against Yerington on their home turf at Lampe Park.
Bryce Schussel pitched six-hit ball over six innings and Brandon Lee came on to shut the door in the seventh, aided by a game-ending ground ball double play, as Whittell (7-4) improved its Division II record to 3-0 and completed a regular-season sweep of the Lions.
"We're playing extremely well," first-year Whittell coach Don Amaral said. "This was a big win. We haven't been able to compete against this school (Yerington) in the past, but things are going our way now."
Consider the top of the seventh inning, when Yerington's Zach Roots led off with an infield hit. An attempt to lay down a sacrifice bunt went awry and Whittell catcher Bret Schussel threw out Roots at second base.
"Bret threw out three people today," Amaral said of the sophomore catcher. "He's really coming along behind the plate."
After Lee came on to pitch, Josh Hurt walked and then Brett Compston hit a grounder up the middle that was deflected by Lee toward Schussel, who had moved to shortstop on the pitching change. Schussel gloved the ball, stepped on the bag for the force out, and threw over to Tom Hunter to complete the game-ending double play.
"I thought it was going into center field, but Brandon got his glove out there and kind of nicked it my way," Schussel said.
On the mound, Schussel (2-1) struck out eight and walked none to earn the win while Lee finished up to earn credit for a save.
"Everything was working today," the senior right-hander said. "The defense was getting to everything and we didn't have many errors (one). As long as we keep those down, it makes a big difference."
The loss dropped Yerington (8-5) to 3-3 in division and hurt its postseason prospects.
"Whittell played a good ballgame. They hit our best pitching, they ran the bases and they played defense," said Yerington coach George Ostrander, whose Lions dropped a 2-0 verdict at home to Whittell on March 21.
Yerington took a 1-0 lead in the first when Alex Tapia singled and scored on Matt Farler's single to center.
Whittell got to Yerington starter Joe Goffinet with a two-out rally in the fourth. Kyle Spingola singled and Bret Schussel walked to set the table. Then Matt Wiggens singled past third base to score one run and Joe Piccola followed by stroking a full-count pitch up the middle for an RBI single that put the Warriors on top, 2-1.
Bryce Schussel aided his own cause in the fifth with a run-scoring single up the middle to make it 3-1.
The extra run came in handy because Yerington came back in the sixth. Tapia, who was 3-for-3 on the day, singled and scored on Farler's double off the fence in right-center.
The setback was a tough one for the Lions.
"This was a big one," Ostrander said. "We needed this today. We have Dayton on Saturday and then Manogue the week after, so we really have our work cut out for us now."
Yerington visits Dayton (2-0) for an important Division II doubleheader Saturday starting at 1 p.m. In the meantime, Whittell plays at Dayton on Thursday.
That will be another big game for the Warriors, who may be off to their best start since winning the 1A state championship in 1979.
"It's another big test and we're looking forward to it," Amaral said, flashing a wide grin. "We want to play two now ... we're ready."