Truckee ends 3A Manogue winning streak
On Wednesday morning, the Northern 3A baseball standings featured something it hadn’t in six seasons Ð a number other than zero in Bishop Manogue’s loss column.
Courtesy of Truckee High, Manogue’s 91-game Northern 3A league winning streak, dating back to 1998, is officially over.
Behind standout performances by seniors Nik Smith and J.R. Murphy, and exceptional defense, Truckee inserted an April 6 glitch into Manogue’s ideal 2004 script, winning 3-1.
“It was our last year in 3A, and if we would have finished out the year (on a winning note) it would have been 100,” said Manogue head coach Charles Oppio. “Streaks are meant to be broken, but this was a six-year winning streak, and there’s a lot of kids involved in that. It’s tough to see it go.”
Manogue will compete in the 4A next year, hoping to face stiffer competition after winning four out of five Class 3A state championships, including the last two. Oppio was quick to dispel the theory that ending the streak will help his team regain its championship focus.
“I don’t believe that losses help you, and I don’t believe in moral victories,” said Oppio, who spoke somberly outside of the visitor’s dugout following the defeat. “It’s over with, and it’s gone. We need to get back to work.”
In a classic baseball game that featured little drama and errorless defense from both squads, Oppio showed the utmost respect for the opposition, including the positive influence Truckee’s four-year head coach Jason Estabrook has on his players.
“Jason does a great job up here, and he’s turned the program around. He’s got these kids believing in themselves. (Truckee) did a great job today,” Oppio said.
Still, for Manogue, an impressive 97-game home winning streak is still intact, and a 7-1 Northern 3A record is still good enough for first in the division. Manogue’s overall record drops to 10-4.
Outside the winner’s dugout, it wasn’t quite like the thrill of winning a state championship (something Truckee hasn’t done since 1994), but it was close, eliciting scenes like Estabrook accepting a big hug from his wife. It was a monkey off the back for a lot of Truckee sports enthusiasts.
“Truckee’s been taking a beating from Manogue for a long time,” said Estabrook, fighting back smiles after the game. “We’ve been getting our butts kicked (by them) for about 10 years.”
It was Truckee’s first win against Manogue since 1993, Estabrook said, improving its record to 12-3 and 4-2 in the Northern 3A. But for more reasons than the obvious, Truckee’s win against Manogue was special on a lot of fronts.
Besides putting an end to one of the most impressive streaks in all of sports, Truckee couldn’t have scripted its first home game in two seasons any better.
Last year, a couple monstrous April snow storms wiped out any chance of a Truckee home game at the “Rock Garden” Ð affectionately nicknamed by Truckee players (behind the theory that no matter how many times you rake it, the infield will still contain small rocks). But it looks like the spring 2004 weather might allow Truckee to utilize an important homefield advantage.
“We know how to play here,” Estabrook said. “This is a very tough environment because the field (condition) is not that great.”
The win also put Truckee back into serious contention in the Northern 3A, and it will help to put its name on the list of 3A contenders, along with early season successes North Tahoe and Dayton, in addition to Manogue.
As for the game itself, Manogue hitters looked frustrated the whole game against senior Nik Smith and his slow, submarine pitching style. Manogue’s usually potent offense could not establish patience against Smith, consistently hitting slow rollers and grounders on the “Rock Garden” infield.
Smith went six innings, struck out five, and only gave up two Miners hits to Glen DeWeese and Andy Lujan. Smith also escaped two bases loaded jams in the first and fourth innings. The Miners lone run came on a RBI groundout in the fifth.
“(My pitching style) is usually pretty effective, but I didn’t expect that,” said Smith, who improved his record to 2-0. “I expected to scatter around 10 hits and they’d score five or six, but I’ll take it. This is one of the biggest wins in Truckee baseball in a while.”
Smith and Murphy sat beside each other on buckets outside the dugout, rejoicing after the game. Both attributed a large part of the victory to the mystique of playing at the Rock Garden.
Smith’s moral victory on Tuesday was convincing Estabrook to keep him in an extra inning. Estabrook fought his instinct to insert Murphy in the sixth and was more easily convinced by Smith’s suggestion based on Murphy’s performance Saturday against Dayton.
“What happened was Murphy threw 124 pitches in (game one versus) Dayton,” Estabrook said. “He threw so many pitches I was afraid to bring him in. I (planned) to wait until the sixth or the seventh to bring him in (today).”
Murphy, who has signed a letter of intent to play for Yavapai Junior College (Prescott, Ariz.) next season, has been the rock for Truckee on the mound. Murphy took the ball in the seventh with a 3-1 lead and promptly finalized Truckee’s biggest baseball feat in years, yielding a groundout to shortstop in between two strikeouts to register his first save of 2004.
“I’m sure it was great for (Murphy) because he got roughed up a little bit (last time versus Manogue), Estabrook said.
On March 16, Murphy (4-1) suffered his only loss of the season at Manogue in a 7-1 decision. In that particular game, Murphy, Truckee’s cleanup hitter and leading RBI man, was also 0-4 at the plate. Murphy sought redemption when he stepped up to the plate to face Manogue pitcher Matt Pagni in the third inning.
At the time, Truckee led 1-0. With the bases loaded and no outs, Murphy worked the count to 3-2 against Pagni. Murphy ripped an outside fastball to right field and eventually stood on second with a stand-up, two-run double that gave the Wolverines a 3-0 lead and all the offense they would need.
“Last time (against Manogue) we had a lot of hits, but we just couldn’t put them together,” Murphy said. Luckily for Truckee, Murphy got the big hit at the right time on Tuesday.
As if pitching and hitting weren’t enough, Murphy’s heads-up base running was responsible for Truckee’s first run in the second inning. On a slow roller off Paul Tierney’s bat (also known to the baseball enthusiast as a “swinging bunt”), Murphy made a sensational wrap-around tag of home plate around the Manogue catcher to make the score 1-0.
It was baseball the way it’s meant to be played, and it was a victory that the whole community could share in, evidenced by Smith’s proud mother skipping around after the game, repeatedly uttering, “A two-hitter. A two-hitter!”
Yes, that can’t be argued. It was a two-hitter, but it was achieved by perhaps the last pitcher that Manogue expected to end its sensational streak that almost reached a century’s worth of games. And coach Estabrook probably needed a night’s rest for it to properly sink in.
“It’s phenomenal. I’m still in shock,” he said.
Truckee hosts Fernley in a doubleheader on Saturday, April 10, starting at 10 a.m.
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Students frustrated at the cancellation of sports waved signs and delivered speeches at a Truckee High School protest in an attempt to return to the field this year.