Baseball: Tigers look to build on strong 2006 | RecordCourier.com

Baseball: Tigers look to build on strong 2006

by Joey Crandall

In each of the last three seasons, Douglas baseball coach John Glover has been in the position of having to replace his entire three-man starting pitching rotation heading into the year.

Things haven’t worked out too badly, as the Tigers have won a league title and advanced to the regional semifinals twice during that stretch, but Glover refuses to designate his program as one that simply reloads year-in and year-out.

“It’s still the same teams in the league that are good,” he said. “You get Reno, Carson and Wooster, and now Damonte Ranch is looking like a great team. It’ll be tough to even make the playoffs this year. It’ll be a tough road ahead of us.”

Even so, Glover will get the luxury of only having to find one starter for the rotation after three years of complete turnover.

“That’s exciting, to have two-thirds of our rotation set,” he said. “But we still have to find that third starter. You have to have three, because all of the good teams in the league have three quality starters.”

What Douglas does have is talented sophomore Tyler May, who went 4-4 last year as a starter and grabbed second-team all-league honors and seasoned senior Nate Whalin, also a 4-4 starting pitcher who took first-team all-league honors as an outfielder.

“They’ll have to carry the workload for us, especially early in the season. They’ll be our go-to guys,” Glover said.

There will be a number of players competing for the No. 3 spot, led by senior Pat Lahlum (1-1 last season), junior Adam Burnside (1-0), senior Cory Eilers and junior varsity call-ups Troy Torres and Wyatt Graham.

Douglas has seven regular starting fielders returning, but received a blow in the offseason when first-team all-league first baseman Ryan Laing moved to Southern California.

Laing was the 172nd-ranked prospect nationally by Baseball America.

“He’s a great kid and he’ll be missed, but we wish the best to him,” Glover said.

Two-time all-leaguer Phil Mannelly will shift over to first from second to replace Laing, and he’ll be backed up there by Graham, whose older brother Austin was a two-time regional player of the year in 2002 and 2003.

“Mannelly is going to have to swing it for us this year,” Glover said. He’ll be one of the big sticks in the lineup.”

Junior Jeff White will see plenty of time at second base after filling in a reserve role for the Tigers last year. He’ll be in competition for the spot with junior varsity call-up Ryan Quenga.

Willie Morgan, a three-year player for the Tigers, will return from offseason shoulder surgery and will get the starting nod at short.

“He’s still trying to get his arm in shape, but he gives us some senior experience on the left side of the infield,” Glover said.

Sophomore Tim Rudnick, who saw some time at the varsity level last year, will back Morgan up at short.

Senior Ryan Pruitt, a second-team all-leaguer last year, will get the start at third base, but he’ll have competition from Torres, a sophomore.

“Ryan will be a key contributor for us this year,” Glover said. “He completes that senior base on the left side.”

Behind the plate will be Jordan Hadlock, who as a junior will be heading into his third season with the Tigers starting at his third different position. He started at second base his freshman year and shortstop last season.

“We had too many middle infielders this year and Jordan is just a great athlete,” Glover said. “He can make that adjustment. I’ve been pretty lucky to have some quality catchers here and Jordan will be a pretty good one. He’ll get a lot of innings back there.”

Sophomore Beau Davis and junior Kyle Flagg will also be in the mix at catcher, but Glover will be looking at Flagg more as a designated hitter.

“He’s a left-handed guy and we’re pretty excited about him,” Glover said.

The outfield may end up being Douglas’ strong suit this season with returners at every spot.

Niko Saladis will make the shift to center after playing primarily in left last year. He did get the nod at center whenever D.J. Brady was pitching last year, however.

Whalin, already a first-team honoree in right, and Cory Eilers, who saw significant time in the outfield last year, will be the most likely starters, although Brandon Bernard will shift between outfield and the pitching mound throughout the season and junior varsity call-up Ethan Gangwish will see time as well.

Bernard went 1-1 as a pitcher last season.

“This is as big of a bunch as I’ve ever had coming back,” Glover said of his 20-man roster. “We’re an old team, but we’re also young.

“We have nine seniors and the rest are juniors and sophomores. We’ll look to the seniors for leadership. A lot of them had success in football this year and Nate and Brandon are coming off the awesome run the basketball team had.

“Douglas athletics is just getting better and better and we’re going to try to keep things rolling.”

Glover is entering his fifth season at the helm of the Douglas baseball program and has compiled a 93-45 record during that stretch.

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