RENO - Numbers may sometimes lie, but when the Reno Huskies and Bishop Manogue Miners square off with the Green Valley Gators and the Bishop Gorman Gaels in the NIAA Class 4A state championships, numbers will nevertheless be a big part of the story line.
The High Desert League champion Miners (28-8) face the Gaels (38-3) beginning at 1 p.m. today and the Sierra League and Northern 4A regional champion Huskies (29-6) meet the Gators (32-5) at 4 p.m.
Both games will be played at Peccole Park before switching sites Friday to Western Nevada College for 10 a.m., 1 and 4 p.m. games. The championship game will return to Peccole on Saturday beginning at 1 p.m., with an "if necessary" game at 4 p.m.
Of the four teams it is Sunset Region and two-time defending state champion Gorman that has drawn national attention this year. The Gaels were ranked No. 1 by five major polls, including USA Today and ESPN, when they dropped a 7-4 game to Sierra Vista on April 24.
Gorman, whose only other losses were to Newbury Park (Calif.) on March 29 and Palo Verde (2-1) in the first game of the Sunset Regionals on May 6, is currently ranked No. 2 by Baseball America and Perfect Game, No. 3 by Rounding Third and No. 6 by Maxpreps.com.
"They're easy to get information on," said Manogue coach Charles Oppio. "They have a great Web site and I've talked to coaches down there and got scouting reports. They're as good as advertised."
So, apparently, are the Sunrise Region champion Gators, according to Reno coach Pete Savage.
"They're a great program," Savage said. "They're a great offensive club. We have a lot of respect for them on the mound. We expect them to be a very challenging opponent. They've won so many state titles (eight) in the past. We respect them. It seems like they're in there every year. Coach (Nick) Garritano has done a very good job."
Green Valley won six consecutive state championships from 1993-98 and added two more in 2001 and 2003.
Reno hasn't done such a shabby job itself and has scored a total of 50 runs in its last three games.
"Practice has been great," said Savage, in his 18th season. "The kids are excited. They're focused and ready to go. It's the same practice routine we've run throughout the year."
The Huskies have won five state championships and are the last Northern team to do so, in 2004. Reno also won state titles in 1962, 1977, 1978 and 1984.
This season the Huskies' approach hasn't been so much game by game as it has pitch by pitch.
"We're going to maintain that philosophy," Savage said. "It's gonna be fun. I really look at it like the kids have worked real hard and have been successful. They deserve the opportunity. They should enjoy the tournament."
The Huskies' top ace on the mound has been senior right-hander Keegan Peterson. The 6-foot-4, 185-pounder is 9-0 on the season. Savage said Wednesday that he hadn't decided whom he'd start today.
Oppio, however, said he's going to hand the ball over to senior Joe Wieland. The 6-3, 190-pound righty is 7-2 on the season with a 0.87 earned run average.
"Hopefully they haven't faced a guy as good as Joe," Oppio said of the Gaels, who have outscored their opposition 54-5 over the last three games. "We know he's excited for the opportunity. Most people don't expect us to have a chance. It's a good situation for us to be in."
That's one way to put it.
Gorman has won 30 of its games by 10 or more runs and scored a national-record 502 runs this season, 130 more than any other team. The Gaels are also proficient on the base paths, successfully stealing 95 percent of the time (100-of-105).
Gorman is chock-full of Division-I recruits and signees, including senior right-handed pitcher Don Roach, who is 8-0 and going to Arizona.
Designated hitter/first baseman Brandon Garcia is headed to USC, right fielder Paul Sewald is off to San Diego and senior catcher John Rickard will attend Division II and former Scenic West Athletic Conference champion Dixie State College, in St. George, Utah.
Junior left-hander Jeff Malm has already committed to USC. Malm, the Most Valuable Player for the Sunset Region and Southern Region, also plays at first base and in the outfield. Malm is hitting .576 in his last 40 at bats and has hit safely in 21 of his last 22 games.
Sophomore second baseman Johnny Field is hitting .445 - including .590 in his last 39 at bats - and junior center fielder Joey Rickard has been strongly recruited by USC and Oregon.
Since 1980, the South has won 24-of-28 state championships with only Reno, Wooster (2002) and Carson (1992) interrupting its dominance.
Manogue has won a total of eight state championships, including three at 2A before Oppio led the Miners to five at the 3A level in 1999-2000 and 2002-04.
It is the Miners' first-ever 4A state appearance.
"They're excited about that," Oppio said of his players. "The whole school is excited about that. It's been a great year. They've worked super hard to get that. They deserve all the accolades they get.
"We knew at the start of the year that we had the most talented team we've had in the 4A. That doesn't always translate into getting there. Our goal at the start of the year was to get into state. We've accomplished that."
Not prepared to concede anything, Oppio, in his 16th season, has happily embraced the role of underdog.
"I don't have to say anything to get the kids up for the game," he said. "I don't see any pressure on us. All the pressure is on (the Gaels)."
Oppio and Savage would be quick to agree that, in the final analysis, the only numbers that will count will be those on the scoreboard when the state championships are over.