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Tigers hit the diamond

by Chuck Smock

With only two weeks separating the first official day of practice and the first game of the season, Northern 4A baseball coaches barely have enough time to put their players’ names with their faces before it’s time to fill out a lineup card.

Fortunately for the Douglas Tigers, second-year head coach Fred Bendure didn’t sit around all winter waiting for someone to holler “play ball.”

Bendure and assistant coaches Hal Wheeler, Steve Wilcox and Rick Kester have taken time before, during and after school since late December, to make sure the Tigers have had the opportunity to get ready for the upcoming season.

Prospective Douglas pitchers started throwing in the gym just after Christmas. Pitching coach Kester worked with the players Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, starting at 6:30 a.m.

Hitters, too, have been able to take their cuts in the indoor batting cage for the better part of two months. Bendure oversaw the workouts each Tuesday and Thursday night. Wilcox and Wheeler, both former head baseball coaches at DHS, were on campus every day, giving the players the chance to hit during their lunch breaks if they wanted to.

The Tigers have worked on grounders in the gym and had a few outdoors workouts when the weather has permitted. And, yes, there has been plenty of conditioning.

Douglas will host Dayton on Saturday for a scrimmage that is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. The Tigers will play in a preseason tournament next weekend at Carson and at DHS. They open the tournament next Thursday at 3 p.m. against Fernley at Carson High.

Bendure said the Tigers will be counting on their pitchers to set the tone early in the season. Nine of the 21 Douglas players who made the varsity squad this season are pitchers.

“Pitching is obviously the key,” Bendure said Monday afternoon. “The key to high school baseball is what kids are going to come through for you and who’s going to step up.”

Kester has been working with the pitchers to increase their pitch counts gradually over the past two months. Bendure said most of the Douglas pitchers already should be able to throw 65 to 80 pitches.

“Most of the pitchers have come a long, long way,” he said. “The pitching is ahead of everything, which is great at this point. We had a lot of depth in pitching, which is something we haven’t had in the past. We just have to see which kids are going to flat come through for us.”

The Tigers will have a favorable early season schedule, with 12 of their first 15 games scheduled to be played at the DHS diamond,

And, like last year, the Tigers will try to create their own breaks offensively this year.

“We’re going to be aggressive,” Bendure said. “I think we have a little better team speed this year. We have a lot of young guys, but a lot of the young guys have experience. It’s just a matter of them coming through. Hopefully, they will.

“Most of these kids have played together for most of their lives. It’s just a matter of stepping up to this level and coming through.”