Tigers reload for title defense

Looking simply at the roster breakdown - four seniors, nine juniors and five underclassmen - the Douglas High baseball team has all the makings of a rebuilding year.

But that's what last year was supposed to be too.

Douglas lost its entire starting pitching rotation, four of the top five spots in its batting order and the Sierra League player of the year to graduation heading into the 2005 campaign. The Tigers answered by winning the school's first league title in nearly 14 years and advancing to the regional semifinals.

This year, Douglas is looking at much the same situation, again having lost its entire starting pitching rotation, the Sierra League player of the year and its starting infield.

"That's it, we're back to square one with pitching again," Douglas coach John Glover said. "We don't have many proven guys. We're going to have to find some of these guys to step up and carry some innings for us."

D.J. Brady is the Tigers' top returner on the mound after compiling a 3-2 record last season, including a no-hitter against Hug and a two-hitter to seal off a monumental series sweep at Reno.

"D.J. threw some great games for us last year, but other than that we're going to be searching a little bit," Glover said.

Douglas will have plenty of options on the mound with Pat Lahlum, freshman Tyler May, Ryan Pruitt, Chris Kinsley, Nate Whalin, Willie Morgan, Cory Eilers and Brandon Bernard all listed as pitchers.

"Lahlum threw pretty well for us at the scrimmages last weekend," Glover said. "We'll bank on Tyler May getting us some big innings. He's a freshman, but he'll have to throw. Chris Kinsley should step up for us and Pruitt and Whalin will be out there too. Right now it's a mystery as to who will be out there, but we'll see who steps up."

Offensively, however, Douglas again looks set.

The Tigers have shown little problems racking up the runs during Glover's four-year tenure, and the team appears poised for another potent year at the plate.

First-team all-leaguers Roman Davis, Brady and Phil Mannelly all return as does Pruitt, who was a solid contributor toward the bottom of lineup last season.

Douglas also gets Ryan Laing, a transfer from Spanish Springs, who has shown tremendous potential early on this year. He homered in the Tigers' 8-2 loss to the Cougars in the regional playoffs last year.

"Laing killed us last year," Glover said. "He's a good hitter and we're looking to him to put up some big numbers for us this year.

"As a whole, you look at the middle of the lineup with Laing, Brady, Davis and Mannelly, we've got some guys that can produce. We've got the ability to drive in runs. We just have to find ways to get those guys at the top and bottom of the order on base."

Defensively, Douglas is going to enter the season with an entirely new look.

"We'll have a lot of guys at new positions," Glover said. "That is our biggest need for improvement right now. Pitching and defense. We're going to have to work for it."

Roman Davis, who was arguably the best defensive catcher in the region last year, will return behind the plate but the rest of the starting infield will be new.

Sophomore Jordan Hadlock was solid as a spot starter at second base last year. He'll get the early nod at short this season. Mannelly and Laing will share duty at the corners and newcomers Timmy Rudnick and Jeff White will both see time in the middle.

Pruitt and Morgan are expected to fill in all over the field as well.

"Those two guys are very unique in that they can shuffle in at nine different positions and produce," Glover said. "They're utility guys in the truest sense."

In the outfield Brady will shift over to center. He and Pruitt would be the only returning regulars there, but they'll be joined by veteran utility players Ryan Guzman, Whalin and Kinsley.

Newcomers May, Bernard and Eilers, as well as Severin Nobriga, will see time in the outfield as well.

As far as the Sierra League goes, Glover said Carson and Reno appear to be the early favorites, but Wooster, North Valleys and Damonte Ranch will all be in the mix for the playoffs as well.

"It'll be a very tough league this year," he said. "There are no easy games anymore."

-- Joey Crandall can be reached at jcrandall@recordcourier.com or at (775) 782-5121, ext. 212.


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