Young Falcons make strides on diamond
What began as a season of promise for a young Sierra Lutheran High baseball team evolved into a run to the playoffs that nearly went all the way to state tournament.
The Falcons, in just their second season in the Western A division and fourth season overall, posted a 13-10 overall record plus they finished second in the regular season standings with a 10-2 record.
“I’m proud of the team,” coach Howard Houghton said. “It’s a young program, but I knew we would be good. We had a lot of potential last year. A lot of our players hadn’t played baseball since they were in grade school, and I knew that with more experience they would be a better team. I just didn’t expect we would do this well.”
Sierra Lutheran, which played as an independent in 2014-15, qualified for its first region tournament, where the Falcons opened with a 5-3 win against Mineral County (Hawthorne). The Falcons lost 9-2 in the semifinals to Virginia City, the West division’s regular season champion, and then they lost a rematch against Mineral County that decided a trip to the four-team state tournament.
How young was this team? The Falcons started six sophomores, three juniors and one freshman into the starting lineup in three playoff games.
“Besides having several outstanding players, they pulled together to become a solid team,” Houghton said.
He watched that young talent develop during the regular season on the way to securing that playoff berth.
The Falcons’ success started with a pitching staff that included junior Seth Houghton, sophomores Josh Garcia and Zane Warkentin, plus freshman Zak Houghton, junior Michael Davis and sophomore Rocky DiMartino.
Seth Houghton compiled a 4.67 ERA with 55 strikeouts in 39 innings of work, including 14 strikeouts over seven innings in a 7-4 win over Whittell on March 28.
In the playoff win against Mineral County, Warkentin pitched four innings of five-hit ball then Garcia pitched the final three innings and struck out six of the nine batters he faced. On April 21, Garcia allowed six runs (two earned) with nine strikeouts over 7.2 innings in Sierra Lutheran’s 7-6 win over Virginia City in the second game of a home doubleheader at James Lee Park in Indian Hills.
Davis, a junior, pitched three scoreless innings and allowed one hit in the 9-2 playoff loss to Virginia City.
Offensively, Warkentin hit a team-high .480 with seven doubles and one home run. Garcia hit .422 plus he stole 25 bases on 26 attempts. DiMartino hit .367 with a team-high 28 RBI on 22 hits. Garcia was also a mainstay at shortstop, where he committed one error in 46 chances and had a hand in two double plays.
By the way, this was a coed team with two female players — sophomore Clarice Albert and freshman Kirsi Whear — who saw time on the field this season. Albert collected one RBI in Sierra Lutheran’s 5-3 win over Lone Pine, Calif.
“We’re all looking forward to taking that experience and being even better next year,” coach Houghton said.