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Ovard is clutch performer in two sports

by Dave Price

Brady Ovard grew up in Southern California, and had he stayed, would have gone to Garden Grove High – a school that produced major league star Lenny Dykstra.

Instead, the Ovard family moved to the Carson Valley six years ago, and Brady wound up at Douglas High – a school that produced major league star Shawn Estes.

This season, he was a combination of both those players while helping the Douglas Tigers baseball club to a 24-10 season, second-place finish in the Northern 4A conference and a state tournament berth.

Ovard, a leadoff hitter, like Dykstra, hit .348 with three home runs and six triples, stole eight bases, scored a team-high 36 runs and was honored as a first-team Northern 4A all-conference outfielder this season.

A left-hander, like Estes, he posted a 7-3 record and 2.81 earned run average in 62.1 innings of work, including nine complete games. Appropriately enough, he was given the “Iron Mike” award as the team’s most valuable pitcher.

What exactly did the senior mean to Douglas baseball this spring?

“He was more than anyone realized,” Douglas coach Lars Baker said.

“I put him up for (Northern 4A) Player of the Year. If you want to talk about leadership and competitiveness, he was everything to our team.”

Ovard thrives on a good challenge – and pressure – whether he’s playing baseball or football. He stands only 5-foot-8, but you would never know it by watching him play, according to Douglas football coach Mike Rippee.

“He played much bigger than 5-8,” Rippee said. “His leadership was big. He’s quiet, not one of those guys who talks a lot, but when we needed a big play, he was the one we went to.”

Ovard got the ball often his junior year, rushing for 200 yards against Hug, plus he caught a late touchdown pass that put Douglas ahead against Reed, a game the Tigers eventually won in overtime.

He was slowed early this season by a partial separation of his left shoulder in the Tigers’ week-two game against McQueen. Ovard shined in the playoffs at Elko, where he caught eight passes for 136 yards and intercepted a pass on the final play of the game to seal a 45-42 victory. He also returned a punt to midfield to set up Chris Griffith’s game-winning field goal.

“I thought he was one of the best, if not the best, receivers in the league, and he was probably one of the better running backs; he just didn’t get to run the ball as much this year. He’s the type of player who is really reliable, both on offense and defense,” Griffith said of his classmate.

A hard-nosed player – like Dykstra, a standout running back at Garden Grove High – Ovard caught 43 passes for 552 yards and five touchdowns and received first-team all-conference honors.

That hard-nosed attitude carries over to the diamond.

“Personally, I’d rather get hit than walk,” said Ovard, who was hit 10 times this season. “If I get hit by a pitch, I just smile. That way I feel like I’ve done something to earn my way on base.”

Ovard did modify his approach somewhat when he moved into the leadoff spot in the batting order this season.

“My junior year, I think I walked once all season. I liked to go up and hit the first pitch,” Ovard pointed out. “One of my goals this year was to be more selective and have a better eye at the plate.”

He also showed an ability to muscle up and hit the long ball this season, as was evident by his three home runs. One of those was a three-run shot in the seventh inning at home, a shot over the 400-foot sign in straightaway center field, that lifted the Tigers past Hug. He delivered another three-run shot to trigger a come-from-behind victory at South Tahoe.

“The best thing about Brady is, he’s a gamer,” Baker said. “He hit .462 and his on-base percentage was .650 in the zone tournament.”

Ovard is headed to Menlo College in the Bay Area, where he hopes to pursue baseball and possibly football.

His cumulative grade point average over four years at Douglas was 3.49.

Though there have been so many highlights over the years, interestingly enough, one of his foremost memories didn’t come from a shining moment. It was a Little League Tournament of Championship game in Garden Grove … Ovard reacted when a screaming line drive came off the bat, only he slipped.

The ball soared over his head for what amounted to a game-winning hit.

“I’m not sure you would call that a highlight, but for some strange reason it has always stuck in my mind as a memorable moment,” he said with a grin. “I always think about it when I’m in a big game. It is kind of a motivation.”

There have been few slips since then. At Douglas, it was mostly big games where Ovard rose to the occasion.

The Record-Courier E-mail: rc@tahoe.com

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