Wildcats take to the diamond
What the Western Nevada baseball team will lack in experience in 2008, it should more than make up for in depth.
The Wildcats, coming off a memorable 2007 season in which they advanced to the JUCO World Series, have returned to the field this fall trying to build off of last year’s success. Western Nevada lost 17 players from last year’s team and return only 7 sophomores.
But while the team has only 10 total sophomores, there should be plenty of depth as the Wildcats currently have 36 players on their fall roster.
“We’re working hard and feel like we’re getting better,” Wildcats coach D.J. Whittemore said. “I think we have a lot more depth than we’ve had.”
Whittemore hesitated to say this group is more talented than the first two teams he’s had at Western Nevada.
“I think these guys compare just fine with the players we’ve had in the past talent-wise,” Whittemore said.
Whittemore said the key will be will this team develop the “intangibles” that his previous two clubs developed that made them so successful.
“Do they want to be a team?” Whittemore said. “Do they want to work? I think the answer to that is yes. We’re excited about these guys right now.”
The team has already had a series of intrasquad scrimmages and will have three more intrasquad scrimmages this weekend. The team will scrimmage at 3 p.m. Friday and noon Saturday and Sunday at John L. Harvey Field.
“It was pretty evenly matched between the pitching and hitting,” said Whittemore about the previous scrimmages.
Whittemore said he’s been satisfied with the returning sophomores. “I’m happy with the leadership of the sophomores,” he said.
“Just great leaders by example. They have high expecations. We’re really thankful to have these guys back.”
But there are also no guarantees for the returning sophomores as they will all have to earn their starting spots. That includes returning all-Scenic West Athletic Conference first team performer Andrew Reid at first base.
Even though Reid is coming off a year in which he hit .400 in conference, he’s being pushed by freshman Lance Ray, a left-handed hitter. Whittemore said Ray right now is “as good of hitter as there is on the team.”
Western Nevada has plenty of depth in the infield with nine infielders and that’s after moving Carson High’s Logan Parsley, who started at third and second last year, to centerfield.
Carson’s Kevin Schlange, who started much of last year at shortstop and also saw action at second base, is at second right now. Whittemore said Schlange, who is battling Travis Fiener at second, is having a solid fall.
At shortstop there’s sophomore transfer Kyle Gutchewsky, who has been the best defensive infielder so far, Whittemore said. There’s also switch hitting Jerome Pena. “He’s hit the ball very well the first couple of weeks,” Whittemore said.
Three players are battling for the spot at third, including Reno’s Davis Banks, who redshirted last year at Oregon State. There’s also highly regarded Brian Barnett from McQueen and Boomer Godsill.
Parsley is the leading candidate to take over in center because of his speed. Cliff Shepard, who came on strong at the end of last year, is in rightfield and has picked up where he left off. “Shepard looks to be one of the best hitters on the team,” Whittemore said.
Other candidates in the outfield are Logan Odom, Mike Long, Marshall Kennebrew and Douglas High’s Nate Whalin. A possible candidate to fill the role that Chad Walling filled as a utility player could be Brett Mornvec, who can play infield and outfield. “He’s swinging the bal real well,” Whittemore said.
Chuck Howard returns at catcher but is being pushed by Darren Brauhns of Medford, Ore., and Carson’s Brooks Greenlee. Brauhns, who Whittemore said can run and throw, led his high school and American League teams to state titles. Whittemore also said Greenlee has shown a strong arm.
The pitching staff obviously has big shoes to fill and among the pitchers who are making a bid to fill those shoes are Kyle Farrell of Salem, Ore., James Nygren of Klamatha Falls, Ore., and Kyle Starratt of Boise, Idaho.
Whittemore said Starratt, who he believes is definitely a Division I-caliber pitcher, has show the best command in the strike zone, which is something the Wildcat program stresses. Whittemore said Nygren and Farrell have shown the best velocity.
The Wildcats return two pitchers from last year, Josh Creveling, who’s making a bid to be in the starting rotation, Whittemore said, and Carson’s Wes Osmer, who should play a key role as a left-handed pitcher out of the bullpen.
It’s also obvious the Wildcats have plenty of candidates to be the designated hitter. “There’s a ton of guys competing for the DH job,” Whittemore said. “That will be the last job that gets decided.”
Western Nevada opens its fall scrimmage schedule Friday, September 7 through Sunday, September 9 in a series of games against high school senior all-star teams. The Wildcats will play NorCal Baseball at 4 p.m. Friday, Baseball Northwest at 1 p.m. Saturday and the Utah Baseball Academy at noon Sunday.
The following weekend, the Wildcats will play the Reno Astros, which currently have a 61-6 record.