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Truckee baseball preview | Wolverines hungry for return to state championship

Sylas Wright
Sierra Sun
Sylas Wright / Sierra SunTanner Churich digs for third after hitting a triple against North Tahoe last week. Churich, a senior, is one of two returning first team All-League players.
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Ten months later, the sour taste of elimination from the 2010 state championship tournament still lingers on the palate of at least one Wolverine.

For senior outfielder Tanner Churich, it’s enough to leave him hungry for a shot at redemption.

and#8220;Definitely,and#8221; said Churich, one of four returning seniors from that team, which finished 29-9 overall after losing to Virgin Valley in the 3A state championship series.

and#8220;That hurt,and#8221; Churich continued. and#8220;It stung real deep. So we definitely want to get back there and get what we think is ours and#8230; All of us just kind of know without saying that we want to make a run deep in the state tournament.and#8221;

Truckee’s skipper isn’t convinced just yet. After a stormy start to the season that has led to multiple snow days at the school, and thus non-mandatory practices confined to the gymnasium, seventh-year head coach Mike Ellis said he’s still looking for the kind of fire that carried the Wolverines to state a year ago.

and#8220;I expected us to look a little better,and#8221; said Ellis, grumbling about players not showing up to the unofficial practices. and#8220;But the snow is killing us right now. It’s the same with everybody. So right now we’ve got a late start with the weather. But it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.and#8221;

Until the final two games of last season and#8212; a pair of losses, one in a back-and-forth barn burner, against Virgin Valley and#8212; the 2010 Wolverines strung together quite a finish, carrying a 17-game win streak into the state championship series. They finished the regular season 16-2 in league while earning the Northern 3A title.

But that was last year.

Truckee lost seven seniors to graduation, including league MVP Maclane Brady and four other All-League selections, while would-be returning seniors Ben Bolton, Morgan Nevin and Shane Fisher did not come out for the team. That leaves Churich and James DePew, both first team All-Leaguers, and Troy Allen and Sam Allen as the only returning seniors.

and#8220;We look pretty good. We haven’t had much field time, so we’re a little green, but we’ll get there,and#8221; said DePew, Truckee’s staff ace and top catcher. and#8220;We’ve got good athletes, four seniors, so good leadership. We’ll hit our stride given a little time.and#8221;

Both Churich and his coach are excited about Truckee’s youth, as four sophomores have proven to be impact players in the early part of the season. They include Andy McKechnie, Erik Holmer, Aaron Pado and Jackson Rohlf.

and#8220;We’ve got four sophomores, and they’re all legit,and#8221; said Ellis, who currently has a roster of 19 players, with many battling for starting jobs in the field. and#8220;We’re still trying to find out who’s going to play where right now, who’s going to get the job done. Because right now nothing is set in stone.and#8221;

Besides the four seniors and four sophomores, 11 juniors make up the bulk of the Wolverines’ roster. Junior middle infielder Steven Baker saw game time late in the state championship tournament last year, while Stein Retzlaff was voted junior varsity MVP. Other juniors include Ryan Smith, Brooks Hudson, Tony Buranzon and Luke Theis, among others.

and#8220;The young kids coming up have a lot of potential,and#8221; Churich said. and#8220;They’re just scraping the surface.and#8221;

Luckily for the Wolverines, they have plenty of arms to get them through weeks such as this one, in which Truckee plays a game every day due to recent postponements. DePew is the No. 1 starter, while Ellis ranked Holmer as the No. 2, followed by Baker and Buranzon. McKechnie, Churich, Pado, Retzlaff, Jackson and Smith all can pitch as well, Ellis said.

So far Truckee is off to a 3-0 start in the first-year Mount Rose League, although all three wins were against 2A teams. The 2A-3A mixed league, which was formed to save on travel costs, is made up of all the lake schools plus Sparks. The schools break off for their respective regional division tournaments at the end of the season.


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