DAYTON — Dayton High baseball coach Mike Burrows has high hopes entering the 2017 season, which gets underway next week.
And, there’s good reason for his optimism. The Dust Devils posted an overall record of 16-12, 12-11 in league en route to a 3A regional playoff appearance in 2016.
“We are ready to take the next step,” Burrows said earlier this week. “We lost tight (playoff) games to Fallon and Truckee, but we got a taste that we can compete. We return seven starters, and I feel pretty good about where we are. We played a lot of games this summer against 4A teams, and we put in a lot of extra work.
“It is going to be a good league this year with Spring Creek and Fernley on the rise. Fallon is always right there (at or near the top). I don’t see anybody running away with it. I think four or five losses can get you first, second or third.”
The extra work Burrows talked about has to do with strength and conditioning. He said baseball players have been in the weight room since October. Burrows feels his team is a little more mature this year.
The Dust Devils have some outstanding offensive players back in the fold.
Catcher Dylan Baker hit .407 with four homers and 20 RBI, second baseman Zach Woitas hit .360 with 16 RBI, Trevor Burrows hit .352 with a homer and 17 RBI, shortstop Jesse Schmidt batted .414 with four bombs and a team-leading 25 RBI, right fielder Nick Hein hit .375 with nine RBI, Justin Schmidt batted .275 with seven RBI and pitcher-utility player Isaac Von Schoff finished at .258.
Jake Madson will start at third base and first base will be split between Brandon Little and Cole Purdy. Avery Nelson will be a long reliever for Dayton, and he could also see action in other spots. Other members of the team are Aiden Howe, Max Madson, C.J. Wilhite and Spenser Alexander.
The Dust Devils return their top three pitchers — Trevor Burrows, Dylan Baker and Isaac Von Schoff – and that’s always good news for any coach.
Burrows’ biggest concern is depth.
“We are one injury away from going to a playoff caliber to not being a playoff team,” he said. “We need to stay healthy, and if we do, we are going to win some games. I’m pretty excited.”
Track numbers are down
Veteran coach Mike Paul said his numbers are down a little bit compared to last year.
“We have about 45 right now, 25 boys and 20 girls,” said Paul, whose team starts competition this weekend at Fallon. “Not a lot of numbers to work with.”
The biggest name on the roster is J.J. Ply, the defending state champion in the pole vault. He was second in state in the high hurdles, and he will also compete in the high jump where he was fourth in the state last year. Ply could win state in all three events if things go well.
“J.J. had a tremendous season last year,” Paul said. “He ran the 300 hurdles, but we’re not sure if he’s going to stick with that. We aren’t sure what is fourth event is going to be next year.”
David Delfin is showing some promise in the weight events, according to Paul. His bests were 116-1 in the discus and 32-4, and he has the misfortune of following in the footsteps of state champ Zach Hawley.
Paul said the sprints are an unknown quantity because of the lack of experience.
On the girls side, the top returners are Ashley (jumps and sprints) and Rebecca Mason (high jump, pole vault), Grace Wells (100, 200, 400, HJ), and Macie Callan (sprints). Also, Sydney Strickler is back after a knee injury, and Paul said she’s looking good.
“I’m hopeful on her,” Paul said.
Callan has bests of 13.98 in the 100 and 28.9 in the 200. Rebecca Mason was ninth in the regionals last year at 4-4 in the high jump, but she has cleared 4-10. Wells was 11th in the 400 regionals. She has a best of 63.64. She also cleared 4-4 in the high jump last year. Ashley Mason was ninth in regionals in the triple jump and has a best of 31-6 1/2. She was fifth in regionals in the long jump. She has bests of 13.20 in the 100 and 29.34 in the 200.
Softball looks to improve
Dusti Houk’s club is coming off a 2-22 league season and 2-25-1 overall, and she returns eight players from that club.
Houk has just 12 players and five of them are freshmen, Sydney Anderson (.286 in 8 games) and shortstop Briana Hill (.284) are the seniors. The lone juniors are Cassie Dickenson and Alaura Greenwalt, and the sophomores are Elizabeth Vincent, Caleigh Onstott and Aleeah Howe. The newcomers are Tamia Powell, Shaye Thompson, Marissa Hein, Julianna Rogacs and Amanda Woitas.
Houk vowed to get her players more involved, playing the sport more than just the three-month season, and she did that.
“I took the freshmen and two of the sophomores, and we played as a summer team,” she said. “We played in four different tournaments. It was great. I think we’re headed in the right direction. I think it (summer softball) helped. We are still very young.”
The recent snow has kept most of the teams, including Dayton, off dirt much of the practice season.
“I’m not going to start whining,” Houk said. “There are teams (Incline, North Tahoe, Truckee) that haven’t even seen any dirt. We’ve at least been able to get on the dirt a little. We scrimmaged (twice) on Saturday, so I got to see what we’d do in live situations.
“We are only carrying 12, but it’s a deep 12. They can play different positions. We’ve been working really hard.”
The top returning pitcher is Caleigh Onstott, who has been working with Leah Wentworth, former Western Nevada College head coach. Howe, who led the team with a .367 average, is back behind the plate. She may move around a bit and share time with Vincent (.241). Cassie Dickenson (.135) and Thompson are at first, Amanda Woitas, Marissa Hein and Greenwalt could see time at second, Hill is the starter at short, but Powell and Howe are capable of playing there. Powell and Greenwalt are at third. Anderson, Greenwalt, Vincent and Howe are among the outfielders.
Houk is hoping for more offense this year. The Dust Devils hit just .225 as a team, and that stat has to improve if Dayton is going to move up at all.
“We need Caleigh to step up a lot this season,” Houk said. “I expect her to do well this year. Her first at-bat of the season (in the scrimmage) she hit one out to right field.”
Hill hit a solid .284, and she complements Howe.