Truckee baseball | Wolverines refuse to be denied first state championship in 18 years
Some teams just have a knack for winning and#8212; or in the case of the 2012 Truckee baseball team, an uncanny ability to not lose.
and#8220;They don’t give up,and#8221; said Truckee head coach Mike Ellis, whose Wolverines won the school’s first baseball state title since 1994 when they defeated Elko 2-1 in a nail-biting championship game at Peccole Park on Saturday. and#8220;They don’t like to lose. Who does? But they get mad. They don’t get worried like their coaches do. They about give me a heart attack; they stress me out. But that’s baseball.and#8221;
The Wolverines’ final victory, which closed out a 29-6 campaign, was perhaps the toughest of them all on their coach’s health.
At times, after watching his Wolverines lose the opening game to force a must-win scenario, Ellis steamed from the ears as they forced him and all their red-clad supporters to endure seven more innings of torturously tight baseball and#8212; only to capture the title in dramatic fashion in the bottom of the seventh and final inning.
With one out and the tying run on second base, Truckee second baseman Aaron Pado snared a hard-hit line drive and flipped the ball to second to double off the Elko runner and end the threat.
The scene that followed was one of unbridled elation, and sheer relief.
Truckee players rushed the field and melded into a single human mass, hopping and hooting for joy on the infield turf. Pado spun his glove into the air, then quickly retrieved it off the ground so he could join the throng. Buranzon tried to hoist catcher Luke Theis, but gave up. Theis picked him up instead.
Ellis looked like he didn’t know whether to cry or smile.
and#8220;Words can’t explain how I feel,and#8221; he said. Asked if he had developed an ulcer over the course of the day, Ellis insisted, and#8220;No, no, I’ll be all right.and#8221;
The NIAA State Champions plaque was his saving grace, a cooling balm to settle the pent-up frustration and fried nerves.
Because as any witness can attest and#8212; none more so than Truckee players and coaches and#8212; the Wolverines did not play their best ball on the day. They let Elko’s pitchers off the hook, failing to capitalize on the six walks issued by starter Joe Bejarano and the two by reliever Derek Ridgway. They had three hits and left seven runners stranded on base.
On any given day during their scintillating season, which included a 15-game win streak entering the state final, Truckee may well have pounded out double-digit hits from foul line to foul line and#8212; like they did against Moapa Valley to open the state tournament Thursday. Perhaps they were overswinging, Ellis reasoned, or a bit nervous.
But it didn’t matter, really. The Wolverines were simply not going to lose.
and#8220;We just kind of had to make do with what we had up there and make sure that we didn’t give up too many runs,and#8221; said senior starter and 3A state MVP Steven Baker, who threw four shutout innings before Tony Buranzon closed the final three and#8212; picking up their offense like the best of teammates do and#8212; and just like their teammates have done for them.
It was a day of mixed emotions, from the hair-pulling frustration that can prematurely age a coach to the extreme mirth that followed. It was also a day that truly defined the Wolverines as a team.
and#8220;We just did it on a lot of small ball, a lot of hustle, a lot of solid and#8216;D’ and great pitching,and#8221; said Ellis. “The kids really stuck together and bonded. They had each other’s backs the whole way.”
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