Playing through a pandemic: A look back at highlights from a unique and jam-packed prep sports spring season
One of the more unique and trying high school sports seasons is finally in the books.
“Our student-athletes have gone through so much, and I don’t know if we will know a full accounting for what it all means for a while,” said Nevada Union Athletic Director Dan Crossen. “But to have our student athletes, in the face of that, getting out there and doing what they can for themselves, for their teammates, for their school and for their community has been so rewarding to see.”
While the season was riddled with confusion, disappointments and ever changing COVID-19 regulations, it also featured hard-fought bouts between rival schools, thrilling finishes and incredible individual and team performances. With the jam-packed high school spring sports campaign now in the rear-view mirror, we take a look at some of the highlights from a highly unusual season.
LEAVING IT ALL ON THE FIELD
While there was no postseason or Sac-Joaquin Section banners to vie for this season, student-athletes still put on a show. Here’s a handful of the top performances from the past five months.
Pitching gems: A pair of underclassmen showcased their impressive pitching prowess during the season with Nevada Union freshman Keisen Hayden tossing a no-hitter in his first ever varsity start, and Bear River junior Kenny Blatz pitching a one-hitter.
Hayden tossed his no-no on April 15 against Lindhurst. Facing the Blazers on their diamond, Hayden allowed no hits and no runs while striking out 13 and walking three across seven innings.
“The main thing was, he did a great job of pounding the zone,” Nevada Union head coach Ted White said. “This was Keisen’s first start and he wasn’t supposed to go that deep into the game. He had a short leash, but he put me in a situation where he had a no-hitter going so we let him go, and he did a great job. He was awesome.”
Baltz notched his one-hitter in a contest with Foresthill on April 23. Baltz went all six innings in the 12-0 mercy-rule victory, allowing just one hit and no walks while striking out 13. The junior was extremely efficient as well, throwing just 65 pitches across the six innings.
“It was one of the best high school pitching performances I’ve ever seen,” said Bear River head coach Russell Brackett.
Rising to new heights: A pair of talented pole vaulters propelled themselves to new heights in a track and field meet held at Hooper Stadium May 19. Nevada Union freshman Chloe Metz-Thompson and Bear River junior Julia Pisenti both notched personal best marks of 9-feet, 6 inches. For Metz-Thompson, it was her fourth first-place finish in pole vault on the season. For Pisenti, who placed second, it was a Bear River school record.
Miners go 1-2-3: Nevada Union’s top boys distance runners shined at the Gold Country Distance Carnival on May 17. The Miners took the top-three spots in the boys 1,600 meter race with Jake Slade finishing first, Wesley Selby taking second and Travis Selby placing third.
“We wanted it more than anyone out there,” Slade said about his team’s effort in the race. “We came into that race hungry for something and we all came out and got it.”
With no playoffs or league titles to contend for, the “big games” on the schedule became the rivalry ones. Here’s a look at some of the best bouts from the past season.
Nevada Union vs. Placer (football): The Miner-Hillmen rivalry goes back decades and has produced many tight-contests. NU would fall in this one, 34-27, but only after giving the Hillmen all they could handle.
NU quarterback Gabe Baker threw for 273 yards and three touchdowns, and rushed for another 55 yards to lead the Miners.
Bear River vs. Colfax (girls volleyball): The girls volleyball team from Bear River earned a hard-fought win on Senior Night, beating rival Colfax in five sets (25-22, 25-21, 28-30, 16-25, 15-11) May 5 at Jack R. McCrory Gymnasium. Leading the Bruins was senior Sydney Franks, who tallied a team high 19 kills to go with 15 assists, three blocks and three aces.
“It was a fun night for sure,” said Bear River head coach Matt MacDonald. “Definitely aged a little bit last night, but it was a good night overall.”
Nevada Union vs. Bear River (baseball): In the first-ever regular season baseball contest between the two schools, the Miners and Bruins both battled valiantly until the final out. The Miners led 5-3 in the top of the seventh, but Bear River rallied to tie it. NU charged back in the bottom of the seventh and earned the 6-5 win on a walkoff single by Chase Nye.
“It was great (to get the win),” Nye said after the game. “It was definitely tough competition and a good game all the way through.”
Bear River vs. Placer (girls basketball): Bear River’s girls basketball team celebrated Senior Night with a narrow victory over Placer, 54-53, May 6. Bear River trailed 13-9 after one quarter and went into halftime down 28-27. The Bruins then jumped ahead in the third, outscoring Placer 16-10 in the frame to grab a five-point lead heading into the fourth. Bear River held on down the stretch to pull off the Senior Night win.
Milo in the middle: Nevada Union’s Milo Goehring was a star on the basketball court this past season. The 6-foot, 7-inch forward was a terror in the paint for opposing teams all season. In his third year on the varsity team, Goehring averaged around 25 points per game.
“It’s always a blessing for a coach when your best player is your hardest worker and best leader, and (Goehring) is that,” said NU head coach Mark Casey. “This is a guy who has fully bought in. He’s not only a coach on the floor, he’s a leader on the floor. He sets the tone for the guys and he’s just tremendous.”
Colby and Kolby: When it came to baseball, both Nevada Union and Bear River boasted talented seniors who were leaders on the field and on the stat sheet.
Leading the Bruins was senior shortstop Colby Lunsford, who led the team in hits (19), triples (3), home runs (3) and stolen bases (20). The Sacramento State commit was also second on the team in batting average (.404).
NU’s baseball team was led by senior catcher Kolby Amaral, a Simpson University commit, who led the team in in batting average (.392), hits (29), extra base hits (8), runs (18) and stolen bases (7).
The power of Pisenti: Bear River’s Julia Pisenti shined during the track and field season. In five meets, the talented junior earned five first place finishes in both the discus and shot put events. She also placed first in the pole vault event four different times. And, she notched a pair of first place finishes in the long jump event.
“She really is a sparkle athlete and a hard worker,” said Bear River track and field coach Dan Buxton.
OUTSIDE THE LINES
This season was one that also saw longtime coaches retire, other coaches get new opportunities and players showcasing their abilities across multiple sports.
Changing of the guard: Bear River’s legendary football co-head coaches Terry Logue and Scott Savoie hung up their whistles for the final time after the conclusion of the football season.
“It’s bittersweet, but it’s time,” said Logue, who first started at Bear River in 1987 and has tallied 251 wins as a head coach. “I know it’s time in my heart. Physically, mentally, I just can’t do it. Scott’s been with me a long time. It’s time to let the younger guys run the show.”
Savoie and Logue were on the sideline together for 197 wins and six Sac-Joaquin Section championship games, three of which they won.
Replacing Logue and Savoie will be Tanner Mathias and Mike Profumo, who have been assistant coaches within the program in years past.
“It’s been my dream job since I was 15,” said Mathias, a 2009 Bear River graduate who has been coaching at various levels of the program since 2012. “For 15 years I’ve worked toward this one opportunity and getting it is really exciting for me and my family. I’m grateful to get a chance to do it, and grateful to have Mike (Profumo) to help me.”
Multi-sport athletes: One of the more intriguing aspects of the season was the overlapping of sports that usually don’t share the same spot on the calendar. It led to athletes having the option to play as many sports as they could manage. And, many took advantage of that opportunity.
NU senior J.T. Conway (football, basketball, baseball and volleyball), NU senior Aidan Wahl (track and field and volleyball), NU senior Eli Jones (basketball and volleyball), Bear River senior Jacob Ayestaran (football, golf and baseball), Bear River’s Pisenti (basketball, track and field, and golf) and Bear River’s Kaylee Vieira (softball, volleyball) are just some of the athletes who competed in several different sports during the past few months.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, email email@example.com
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