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Truckee, Whittell not lacking offense

Sylas Wright
Sierra Sun
Photo by Ryan Salm/Sierra SunMatt Aboumrad stretches to grab a throw to first Thursday against Whittell.
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The Truckee High baseball team, nearing the end of the regular season, finally played a game on its home field Thursday against Whittell. The Wolverines came up one run short of victory in an extra innings seesaw battle packed with offensive entertainment. The final score: 14-13.

“They’re a real good team,” senior third baseman Jimmy Williams said of Whittell. “You’ve got to give it to them. And you’ve got to give it up for our pitcher, John Hooper. He pitched a great game. He really battled.”

Hooper, a junior who normally plays outfield, got off to a rocky start, as he allowed three runs in the first inning to a fired up and free-swinging Whittell team. Whittell picked up two more in the second inning before Hooper found his groove and became stingy giving up runs.

In the bottom of the third, just when the sun found some wispy clouds to hide behind and the air chilled with the help of a steady breeze, the Wolverines bats heated up.

Leadoff hitter and catcher, Buck Claesson, started things off with a solid line drive base hit up the middle. Second baseman Jeff Hansen followed with a seeing-eye grounder between the first and second baseman. Whittell’s right fielder then launched the ball over the third baseman’s head in an attempt to gun down Claesson, who scored on the overthrow to put Truckee on the scoreboard.

After consecutive walks to Ben Tonon and Joe Lipnoski ” and Hansen scored when Tonon drew a throw from Whittell’s catcher while stealing second ” Matt Aboumrad smashed a line drive to the gap in right-center to drive in Tonon. Shortstop Paul Tierney kept the inning alive with an RBI base hit before the inning ended, with all nine Wolverines batting. The score: 5-4, in favor of Whittell.

Hooper held Whittell scoreless in the top of the fourth, and Truckee picked up two more runs in the bottom of the inning by way of a crushed double to the base of the fence by Tonon with runners on first and third. The score: 6-5, Truckee.

Bad luck struck Hooper in the top of the fifth, as the first two batters of the inning got on base via misjudged fly balls by Truckee outfielders. Both scored, and Whittell regained the lead, 7-6.

The Wolverines bounced back again in the bottom of the inning, scoring two more runs on an overthrow by Whittell’s pitcher, who was trying to get a force out at third.

In the top of the sixth, Hooper walked the first batter before allowing three consecutive doubles and a base hit.

With Whittell leading, 11-8, and Hooper’s pitch total accumulating, Truckee coach Mike Ellis strolled to the mound and pointed to right fielder Andrew Mazzini.

Mazzini, a sophomore who has pitched zero innings this year, looked surprised to be called upon. He stood without a response until Ellis motioned for him again and hollered his name. Fighting back a grin while warming up, Mazzini put his game face on and struck out the first batter he faced to the delight of teammates and the small crowd on hand. The next batter popped the ball almost straight up, and Williams rushed in from third, called off Claesson, and made the grab.

The Wolverines were held scoreless in the sixth.

In the top of the seventh ” the final inning in high school baseball – Mazzini retired the side in order, with help of sound defense by infielders Hansen and Williams.

In need of a rally in the bottom of the final inning, the Wolverines got it. Designated hitter Scott Decker took a pitch in between the shoulders blades to get things started. Claesson followed with a double to the fence in left and Decker scored on a wild pitch. Hansen then hit a clutch RBI triple to bring Truckee within one run, and Williams picked up the tying RBI on a ground out. Lipnoski grounded into the third out to send the game to extra innings.

Mazzini in the eighth inning drilled the leadoff batter, then, after a walk, did the same to the next two hitters, forcing in a run. Whittell picked up a double and two more runs before the inning ended with a fly out to Hansen. The score: 14-11, Whittell.

After two quick outs in the bottom of the inning, Mazzini sparked a two-out rally with a base hit. Decker followed with a walk and Claesson an RBI rip up the middle. Hansen then beat out an infield single, scoring another run, keeping the inning alive, and bringing the Wolverines within one run. But Williams hit into a fielder’s choice to end the game with runners on first and third. The final: 14-13, Whittell.

“I thought we played hard and never gave up,” Ellis said after the game. “It was great preparation for Saturday’s games against Spring Creek. If we win the last four games, we’ll be looking good [entering playoffs]. The future is in our hands, and we can do it.”

Thursday’s game against Whittell was non-league, Ellis said, and because it had no bearing on playoffs, he did not throw any of his top three starters.


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