Two familiar foes, the Douglas Tigers and Reed Raiders, will square off Tuesday in Sparks on the opening day of the Northern Division I Region baseball playoffs.
Reed (18-8 overall, 15-7 league) comes into the 4 p.m. contest on its home field as the tournament’s No. 3 seed and Douglas (16-11, 12-10) as the No. 6. The two teams have met in three previous games this season — two of which have been won by the Tigers — and a total of five runs have decided those games. Don’t expect anything to change in the postseason.
“It should be a great game,” Douglas coach Bruce Jacobsen said. “Reed is a good team and coach (John) Phenix has been there a long time. They always hit the ball well, play good defense and they’re always solid on the mound. They have 11 seniors, so no doubt, we’ve got our work cut out for us.”
Phenix was Reed’s head baseball coach from 1980-2004 and is now in the second season of his comeback tour at the helm of the program. Looking back even further, the rivalry has been enhanced since Phenix played baseball at the University of Nevada along with longtime Douglas coaches Hal Wheeler and Steve Wilcox.
“We’re very evenly matched,” Phenix said. “Top to bottom, Douglas has a lineup that’s as good as anybody, and they have a great coaching staff.”
Phenix went on to rattle the names of players that included Cale Kynett, Kyle Johnson, Cole Peck and Kaleb Foster, among others. Johnson is in his fourth varsity season at Douglas and the other three are all third-year veterans.
Foster ranks among the top catchers in the league, according to Phenix, who interestingly enough, coached Teddy Foster, Kaleb’s father at Reed. Teddy Foster was a three-time all-league selection who went on to play for UNLV and then at Nevada.
“He’s a fantastic player and just a great kid,” Phenix said of Kaleb Foster. “He plays the game the right way. When we played that doubleheader (on May 3), he put it all on the line all 14 innings.”
Reed won the opening game of the league doubleheader 3-2 as the Raiders’ Thomas Sertic and Johnson both pitched five-hitters. Peck won game two for Douglas, 7-5, and also bested Reed 4-2 in a preseason tournament game on March 14.
Douglas was eliminated from last year’s region tournament with back-to-back losses against Spanish Springs (1-0) and Reed (5-2). The Tigers are looking to put in a longer run this week.
“We want to go in there, play as hard as we can and let the chips fall where they may,” Jacobsen said. “Hopefully, we can get some good pitching, some timely hitting and make a few plays to put us in position to win the game.”
Reno, the regular season champion with a 21-1 record, is the two-time defending region champion. Even so, this tournament appears to be a wide open affair.
“All the first round matchups are very even,” Phenix said. “It could go one of six ways. Reno has excellent, excellent defense and pitching, and they don’t make mistakes. But any of these teams can win on any given day.”
Tournament games on Tuesday and Wednesday will be played at the sites of higher seeds and then continues Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Peccole Park on the University of Nevada campus.
“There’s a lot of parity in this league,” Jacobsen said of the tournament. “It was a real dog fight. We had a lot of upsets and a lot of great games. It’s going to be interesting.”