Incline baseball | Highlanders eye postseason return
Clean up the defense and baserunning, and the Incline baseball team likes its chances.
The Highlanders enter their 2015 campaign poised for success, anchored by a group of veteran ballplayers who are hungry for postseason redemption.
“We’re not looking bad. We’re coming along pretty well,” said Incline coach Jeff Clouthier, now in his seventh year leading the Highlanders. “I think we’re going to be a good hitting team for sure.”
Incline is off to a 4-3 start overall and is 1-2 in Northern Division III play after the opening league series at Pershing County. The Highlanders look to rebound from the tough series and improve on last year’s postseason run, which ended with a 1-2 showing in the regional playoff series.
The Highlanders return nine players from last year’s team, including six seniors and four juniors. Incline also boasts two sophomores and two freshmen.
The top of the lineup is dominated by senior veterans with the exception of Tristan Summers, a freshman pitcher and catcher who played his way into the second slot in the batting order. Clouthier said that Summers, who’s hitting a cool .500 (10-for-20), can play other positions as well.
“He’s been a nice addition,” Clouthier said. “Having a freshman who can come right in and contribute is a good thing for us.”
Senior Jack Clouthier leads off the batting order after a first-team All-League junior season. Clouthier, who’s also batting .500 in the early going (10-for-20), is the No. 1 starting pitcher and shortstop.
The Highlanders have another first-team All-Leaguer batting third with senior Tommy Thompson, who’s Incline’s catcher, No. 2 starter and shortstop.
Senior first baseman Ben Snyder bats cleanup and is followed by senior third baseman and pitcher Cole Steinberg, who is batting .474 (9-for-19) in his first season since his freshman year.
Junior center fielder Owen Graffis bats sixth and senior second baseman Nicky Witty seventh, while the eight and ninth slots are up for grabs among outfielders Chris Rohrberger, Alex Barnard, Bryan Banuelos, Ben Koch and Fidel Rodriguez, coach Clouthier said.
While the top of the lineup is established, Clouthier said the Highlanders are still trying to lock down their pitching staff beyond Clouthier, Thompson and Summers. He said Steinberg, Witty and Banuelos seem most likely to fill the reliever roles.
Clouthier said the typical contenders — Pershing County, Battle Mountain, Yerington and North Tahoe — figure to be their main competition for the four regional playoff seeds. The top two teams from regionals advance to the state championship tournament.
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