Baseball: A dynasty in the making
Douglas baseball coach John Glover is known as a bit of a sandbagger around these parts.
The running joke is that he could have a lineup stocked with future MLB hall-of-famers and still worry aloud about being able to win even five games.
Heading into this season, it was perhaps at its most obvious, as he claimed with a straight face that he felt it would be an uphill battle to even make the Northern 4A Regional playoffs.
His intentions are pure – he simply wants to play his hand as close to the vest as possible heading into every year – but there was simply no hiding what he had lined up for this year.
For the first time in three seasons, the Tigers returned the bulk of its starting pitching rotation and welcomed back a majority of veterans around the horn. Even having lost senior slugger Ryan Laing, who hit eight home runs and led the league with 28 RBIs the year prior, after he moved to Southern California, the Tigers had familiar faces at nearly every position on the field.
The experience showed in high volume.
The six senior bats in the Tigers’ lineup propelled the team to an astronomical 340 runs scored on the year, which worked out to an average of 9.19 per game.
The pitching staff combined to average nearly five strikeouts per game while walking just under three per game.
It all added up to eight come-from-behind victories, 25 overall wins, a Northern 4A Regional runner-up finish and the school’s second league title in three years.
It marked Douglas’ first appearance in the regional title game since 1998, but perhaps more telling was what the Tigers will bring back next year.
The Tigers have said good-bye to large senior classes before, and this year will be no different with six starters and three key utility players departing.
A strong core will be sticking around however, led by starting pitchers Tyler May and Wyatt Graham, both sophomores who went a combined 12-5 this season on the mound, and junior catcher Jordan Hadlock, who had a breakout season with six home runs, five triples and 24 RBIs.
May was a strong outfielder as well and sophomore shortstop Tim Rudnick will be back after showing marked improvement as the season went on.
Gone will be starting pitcher and top slugger Nate Whalin, first baseman Phil Mannelly who also was one of the top pure hitters in the region, clutch-hitting second baseman Willie Morgan, sure-handed third baseman Ryan Pruitt, and solid outfielders Niko Saladis and Cory Eilers.
Pat Lahlum, the team’s top reliever will also be departing, as will spot starter Severin Nobriga and designated hitter Brandon Bernard.
One of the things Glover has long trumpted about some of the other top programs in the north is their ability to simply reload from year to year.
It would appear the Tigers are poised to do just that.
Aside from a successful junior varsity campaign, a number of younger players got some valuable experience this year with pitcher/third baseman Troy Torres ready to slide into the mix, spot starter Adam Burnside having exhibit some nice pitching performances, and right fielder Beau Davis having recorded a large number of starts throughout the year.
Sophomore Tyler Hoelzen was impressive in his two starts, most notably starting the regional championship game and holding high-powered Galena at bay.
With Hoelzen and Graham next season, Douglas will have two strong left-handed starting options which is a luxury very few teams in the state have.
Jeff White will likely slide in at second base and was a solid baserunning option for the Tigers this year and designated hitter/catcher Kyle Flagg had some promising at-bats before an early-season leg injury hampered his progress.
Two others who might step into bigger roles next year are Ryan Quenga and Ethan Gangwish.
Douglas set the tone for the year with a 15-1 victory over Spanish Springs to openthe season. Graham was a surprise on the mound, throwing a one-hitter in his first varsity appearance.
After struggling to get rolling in losses to Reed, Galena and Durango, the Tigers rattled off eight consecutive wins.
They put together another eight-game win streak to carry through the middle of the season and rolled in their bracket of the playoffs, winning three games by a combined 37-16 margin.
In the end, they ran into nationally-ranked Galena, matching the Grizzlies punch-for-punch before a three-run inning late in the game gave Galena the title.
— Joey Crandall can be reached at email@example.com or at (775) 782-5121, ext. 212.