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Preparing to play ball

Sylas Wright
Sierra Sun
Emma Garrard/Sierra SunTruckee High senior Andrew Mazzini, the Wolverines' shortstop and cleanup hitter, scoops up a ground ball during practice in the gym on Monday. Mazzini is one of five seniors on this year's youthful squad.
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The 2007 Truckee High baseball team is best described as young. Just ask its players.

“We’ve got a young team, a bunch of juniors and sophomores and one freshman,” said Paco Ruiz, a returning senior and 6-foot-4-inch starting pitcher whose been “lights out” on the mound early this season, his coach said. “But all the upper classmen are pretty solid.”

Here’s how the roster breaks down: One freshman (Maclane Brady), three sophomores, seven juniors and five seniors ” a total of 16.

Among the upperclassmen is junior Keven Sahlberg, a starting pitcher and swift-footed utility player who is returning for his second season on the varsity squad. He, too, described this year’s team as youthful, adding that he expects improvement as the Wolverines get more playing time on actual baseball fields.

“We’re young. It’s gonna take time to get better because our baseball field has snow on it and we’re practicing in the gym,” he said.

Despite the youth, or perhaps because of it, Sahlberg thinks Truckee’s biggest strength is its work ethic.

“Our ability to work hard,” he said when asked to pin down a strength. “Everyone is young and so they want to get better.”

And with a largely new crop of players this season, the Wolverines are playing a different style of ball than in previous seasons based on the skill they have. After all, they lost to graduation sluggers Jason Chapman ” an all-around baseball talent who was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 44th round of the Major League draft this past June ” Ben Tonon, John Hooper and Scott Decker.

“I’ve always had power hitters on the team,” said Mike Ellis, head coach of the Wolverines. “Now I don’t. I’ve got hustlers now ” and heart.

“There’s some heart coming up through the system.”

About the Wolverines’ new style, “We’re playing small ball,” Ellis said. “I’m bunting more than I ever have, and it has panned out already.”

Filling the cleanup slot became a painless decision for Ellis after a torrid start offensively by senior shortstop and third-year varsity starter Andrew Mazzini, who already has one home run on the season in five games.

“Mazzini is ripping everything,” Ellis said.

The hot bat the senior has been swinging is a direct result of batting practice, and lots of it, he said.

“I feel a lot better (at the plate) than the last two years,” Mazzini said, adding that he has been working on his hitting in Reno with Ellis since December. “This year I think I’ll come around.”

Mazzini also thinks his team will come around as it gets more field time.

“We have good chemistry,” he said. “There’s no fighting or bickering, and that definitely is a plus for us …

“We’ve got a lot of young kids, but I think we can pull it off,” he said. “We’ve got the talent.”


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