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Tigers are ready for baseball season

by Chuck Smock

Snow is falling and the cold wind is still blowing, but that won’t prevent the inevitable: Baseball season is here.

The Tigers are scheduled to open the 1999 Northern 4A Conference season with a home game against Elko on Friday, weather permitting. They are also scheduled to play a doubleheader at Wooster High on Saturday.

Douglas got its first, and only, tuneup last Saturday, when the Tigers traveled to Reno High for a pair of scrimmages against Reno and Reed. In each two-hour scrimmage, the teams alternated hitting and pitching every 15 minutes.

“We were up and down,” Douglas coach Lars Baker said. “Our top four pitchers (Trent Tholen, Jared Silveira, Justin Ray and Bruce Jacobsen) looked pretty good.”

Douglas first met Reed, which is down a little, and the Tigers’ pitching dominated.

Reno’s Marc Kaiser, who threw consistently in the 85- to 86-mph range, and hard-throwing sophomore Brandon Cunningham kept the Tigers off balance in the second scrimmage.

“The excitement was worn off and it started to get cold,” Baker said of the scrimmage with Reno. “We weren’t tough at the plate.

“We worked on that in practice (Monday), fighting the ball off, going the other way, making adjustments according to the count.”

Baker said several Tigers turned in solid performances Saturday.

“Marc Garcia swung the bat really well,” he said. “He made good contact and put the ball in play consistently.

“And Tommy Joyner did a nice job behind the plate. He’s really worked hard to improve his receiving and blocking skills and it was evident Saturday. He’s way ahead of where he was in August. He could always hit pretty well, but he’s worked hard on defense and he looked good Saturday.

“Johnny Mannelly, a sophomore second baseman, had a couple hits, including a double. And Steve Henricksen swung the bat well. He just pitched last year, but he’s swinging the bat very aggressively.”

And now the Northern 4A Conference season starts. Baker said he thinks the two scrimmages were what his team needed heading into the game with Elko on Friday.

“The big part was just getting to play someone else besides ourselves, to get a measuring stick for where we’re at,” the coach said. “Reno and Reed are always top five or six. It’s nice to see where were at compared to them.

The Tigers return a dozen players from a team that finished second in conference play and second in the zone tournament last season.

Even so, Baker predicts a tough run through the conference schedule.

“Reno has the whole world back, starting with Marc Kaiser,” Baker said of the three-sport star. “And the Cruz brothers (John and David, both infielders) transferred from Fallon.

“Reed is always good. Long-time coach John Phenix, took a year off last year, and they still finished third in zone. He’s back. They always contend.

“The McQueen coach (Brian Nelson) did some nice things in the summer and they have a few kids back.

“(Carson high coach Ron) McNutt has 28 years of high school baseball experience. He lost eight of nine starters, but you can bet on him being in the zone playoffs.”

Baker is carrying 25 players on his roster, but he’s not worried about

“We try to keep the top two players at each position so we have competition and so we can scrimmage in practice,” Baker said. “(At the start of the season) we gave every kid a role sheet so there would be no misconceptions about what their role is and why they’ve been kept on the team.

“There’s no way to keep 25 guys happy when there’s only 10 spots on the field. We told them they can be part of the team, or not.”