Miners reloaded for new season
In eight seasons, Nevada Union coach Ted White has never been able to guide the Miners to the playoffs.
Two years ago, the Miners came within one place of reaching the goal. Last year, NU finished in the middle of the Capital Athletic League race.
This year, with young players at its nucleus, NU once again sets its sights upon the postseason. This time, however, the Miners just might have that solid mix of speed, pitching and hitting to take the team to the next level.
“I think we can do it this year,” NU senior catcher Evelio Fleitas said. “I see this year’s team as being better than last year. This year’s team plays more like a team than like individuals. We play with more heart. We are real solid everywhere.”
The Miners, who have started as few as three seniors, have won two of three preseason contests, posting wins over Oakmont and a shutout of Placer. They open Capital Athletic League play Saturday in Orangevale against one of the CAL teams to watch, Casa Roble.
“Del Campo, El Camino, Casa Roble and Davis are the top four teams,” White said. “Rio is usually solid. If we come and play well, we can beat anybody this year. But if we come out as we did in the first game (an 11-4 loss to Foothill) without confidence, anybody can beat us.”
White said a key to the success of the team this season begins not at the plate, but with the Miners on the field. Without any real stars on this year’s team and pitchers who are also position players, the Miners will rely on more than nine players to get the job done.
“Good depth is always something to consider when injuries become a problem,” White said. “But with our team the depth is more important when, say, Jason (Gillard) is pitching. If our backup shortstop was not good, we’d be hurting, but that is not the case this year.”
Gillard, who earned second-team CAL honors last year, is expected to be the Miners’ No. 1 pitcher. Junior third baseman Justin Deme started NU’s second game of the season, pitching a complete game victory. The pair also follow each other in the batting order, with Deme hitting cleanup behind Gillard.
“Jason (Gillard) plays a solid shortstop, is very coachable and loves the game of baseball,” White said. “Justin (Deme) is not a classic power hitter in that he doesn’t strike out much. He has a very good eye, and can get the single for us if we need it.”
White said six or seven Miners are capable of taking the mound if need be, including sophomore first baseman Jared Van Matre and junior Gary Daley, who struck out nine in last week’s shutout victory over Placer.
Calling the majority of the games will be Fleitas, who split time last year behind the plate and should be a candidate for all-league honors. Infielder Jason Snavely will typically lead-off for NU, followed by outfielder James Peak. Snavely doubled twice in the win over Placer, with Peak knocking him in each time.
In contrast to a shaky opener versus Foothill, NU played errorless ball in the Placer victory.
“The key for us will be our pitchers throwing strikes, and playing some defense behind them,” White said. “With out lineup, we’ll score our share of runs, but our defense cannot afford to give up the extra hit, the extra runs and still win games.
“We must play good defense.”
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The Nevada Union Junior Miners Football and Cheer teams traveled on Saturday to Casa Roble High School in Orangevale to play the Casa Roble Junior Rams in Sacramento Youth Football League action.