Northern 4A playoffs to begin
Since only one team from the north will advance to the NIAA 4A State Championships in baseball and softball and Galena and Spanish Springs are the overwhelming favorites, respectively, in each sport, there may be those who are already penciling in this week’s results.
But Galena and Spanish Springs still have to earn their way to state and there are seven other baseball and softball teams who will do everything they can to prevent that from happening.
The three teams in Galena’s bracket who will have a chance to knock off the Grizzlies are North Valleys, Manogue and Carson. At Manogue today, Galena will open with North Valleys at 1 p.m. and the Senators and Miners will follow at 4 in the double elimination tournament. If Carson beats Manogue, it could be heading for a showdown with Galena.
Carson coach Steve Cook said Tony Fagan’s health continues to improve. Fagan sprained his ankle last week, but was able to return on Friday, pitching two shutout innings to help the Senators clinch second in the Sierra League in a 13-8 win at Damonte Ranch.
“Tony’s doing OK,” Cook said. “He’s doing fine. His ankle is getting a little bit better every day.
“He’s doing all the things he needs to do. He’s working to get himself ready to go. He just needs to keep coming up big for us.”
Carson has had different players come up big for them all year, including Brooks Greenlee and David Leid, who both hit three-run home runs during a six-run rally that turned Friday’s game around.
“Our kids feel confident,” Cook said. “Our pitching’s been solid. Our hitting’s been solid all year for us. We came in second in a pretty tough division. We must be doing something right.”
But Carson is well aware that it was handled twice this year by the Miners, losing at Manogue 7-1 and at home 16-6.
“They beat us up pretty good at their place,” Cook said. “They beat us up pretty good at our place.”
While Cook said his team didn’t play its best in those games, he added “We don’t know if Manogue did ether and they still beat us pretty good.”
Cook said he was undecided who would start on the mound today, but added anyone with an arm could be used throughout the playoffs.
“When I say everybody, I mean everybody,” Cook said. “Parents, anybody who’s got eligibility. We’re going to throw them if they can get an out.”
Galena has returned virtually everybody from last year’s zone champions and Grizzly coach Gary McNamara said the favorite status hasn’t changed the way his team’s approaching the game. Galena is 29-2 and ranked 31st in the country by Baseball America.
“We’re just going about our business the way we always do,” McNamara said. “We have to play as good as we can play. Our players know they can do it.”
But before anyone expects North Valleys to be a pushover for Galena, it should be noted that the Grizzlies were down to their last strike and facing defeat against the Panther earlier this year when catcher Basim Azzam hit a walk-off two-run home run to give Galena a one-run win.
North Valleys also swept Douglas on Friday to advance to the playoffs. “I personally think they are the hottest team in the area,” McNamara said.
“There’s a toughness to them. We’re not taking them for granted at all. It’s going to be a tough test for us.”
Galena has no shortage of quality arms, including Eric Maupin, Jacob Anderson and Tony Thompson. Maupin continues to receive more Division I interest. Thompson, who starts at third when he doesn’t pitch, has already signed with Kansas.
McNamara said Maupin (9-0) will start today and would start on Saturday in the zone title game.
“If we’re fortunate enough to make it that far he would start Saturday,” McNamara said.
Among the schools who have recruited Maupin include Nevada, UNLV, Fresno State, Pacific and Pepperdine. McNamara said Pac 10 and Big 12 schools are scheduled to watch him as well.
McNamara said Maupin should end up at a Division I school, so it would appear that Western Nevada Community College, which has been trying to lure him, is out of luck.
Maupin will decide after the season, McNamara said. It could even be after the Major League draft because that’s when schools find out who they’re losing to Big League teams.
With the NCAA shortening its season next year and teams slated to play up to five games a week, McNamara said Maupin is an attractive player because he could be a winning pitcher as a freshman. Maupin, who starts at first when he doesn’t pitch, could also be a two-way player in college.
Fagan has also received Division I interest and WNCC is still in the picture.
One of Galena’s inspirational leaders this year has been second baseman J.D. Peters, who leads the High Desert League in hitting, runs, stolen bases and doubles.
Despite losing its last two games to North Valleys, Douglas still had a successful season, winning the Sierra League title and earning the right to be a host site in the playoffs. But the Tigers will open with Reed, a team it has lost to twice this season, at 1 p.m. today. “It’s a team that we have a ton of respect for,” Douglas coach John Glover said.
Glover admitted his team was fortunate to win the league title the way the regular season ended.
“We’re excited to host zone,” he said. “We were in a very competitve league as competitive as I’ve ever seen it.”
The Tigers have also had their share of leaders this year, including Phil Mannelly, Nate Whalin, Ryan Pruitt, Willie Morgan, Cory Eilers and Niko Salidas. Expect Douglas to also go deep in its pitching staff if need be.
Among those likely to see action include Tyler May and Whalin. There’s also catcher Jordan Hadlock, who has taken on the role of closer at times this year.
Carson has a tough road with the defending state champion McQueen and the defending state runner-up and zone favorite Spanish Springs in its bracket. The Senators will open with McQueen at 2 p.m. Thursday at CHS. If Carson wins, it would meet the winner between Spanish Springs and Damonte Ranch.
CHS coach Scott Vickrey said the decision on if to start Cassie Vondrak or Nikki Keller on the mound against McQueen will likely be a game-time decision. Carson’s third pitcher is freshman Daria Leid.
“They’re pretty equal,” Vickrey said. “In almost every aspect they’re pretty close. The pitching has been pretty solid for us all year. We’re starting to hit the ball again. The girls are pretty fired up.”