If Nevada Union’s Miners are uptight about their Division I playoff opener Saturday, they’ve done a great job of hiding their anxiety from head coach Ted White.
“The kids are loose,” said White, whose Miners (11-16 overall) haven’t played since their 12-6 win over Grant in NU’s regular-season finale on May 7. “They’re talking with confidence. It’s not that ‘Oh no, we’re facing the Delta League champions.’ They’re confident.
“The hardest thing for us is having that two-week break without actually playing any games. We’ve played inter-squad games, but it’s not the same.”
Although the Sheldon Huskies (17-10) – NU’s opponent for the 1:15 p.m. Saturday showdown at American River College – have also been idle this week, the Delta League champs played two games last week. The Huskies humbled Folsom 13-3 on May 11, before closing out the season with a 6-3 loss to Jesuit. The Huskies dropped three of their final five games.
“I do think the layoff, for our pitchers, is a good thing,” White said. “They’re still getting they’re throwing in, but also they’ve also gotten a nice, long break.”
Taking the hill for Nevada Union will be 6-foot, 5-inch senior southpaw Jarad Van Matre, who owns a 1-3 record with a 2.59 ERA with 30 strikeouts and 15 walks in 27 innings pitched.
White said he expects Sheldon coach Chris Terry to throw his ace, 5-foot-10 senior Nick Tavolario, who led the Delta League with 67 strikeouts and ranked second in the league with a 2.18 ERA. Tavolario racked up a 6-3 record in his 61 innings of work this season.
“He’s a sidearm thrower,” White said, “so that’s a different twist we need to work on. Defensively, they’re a good ball club, but I think we match up pretty well against them.”
Sheldon’s Huskies are no slouch with the sticks either. Sal Rivera leads the team with a .343 batting average, while both Jeff Kroeger and Trevor Fox are hitting .333. Chris Betzler has 16 RBI, while hitting .295 with two home runs. Eric Hanson has homered and has 18 RBI in his .247 season at the plate.
Nevada Union’s opponents have found it difficult to find an easy out in the Miners’ batting order, with no less than eight players hitting north of the .300 batting-average benchmark.
Van Matre has been the top run producer, driving in 25 RBI while hitting .354 with four home runs. Jason Roenicke has a team-leading .391 average, with two homers and 22 RBI. Curtis Campbell has hit at a .377 clip while driving in 20 runs, while Brian Jordan (.355, 15RBI, 2HR), Chad Garvey (.347, 17RBI, HR), Dan Rackley (.347), Cody Bielen (.308) and Josh Gauldin (.308) have also been tough outs.
Nevada Union secured its playoff berth by closing its season with three straight wins, which was the first time the Miners put together a win streak this year. NU, though, can make that four in a row with a win Saturday.
After earning a share of the Pioneer Valley League championship – the first baseball league crown in Bear River school history – Mike Viola’s Bruins (16-6) look to continue their groundbreaking season at noon Saturday in a first-round matchup against East Union (19-6).
The Lancers, who finished second in the Valley Oak Conference to Buhach Colony (25-2) – which eliminated Bear River from first-round action in 2003 – had won 11 straight games heading into its regular season finale on May 14, in which East Union fell to Sierra by a 9-3 count.
“We don’t know anything about them,” said Viola. “I’ve talked to coaches and nobody knows much about them. Nobody up here that we know has played them.
“We know they’re a playoff team so they’ve got to be pretty good to be there. For me it would help to know more about them, but the players – they’ve just got to play – we can’t be too worried about our opponent.”
The Bruins are coming off a similar finish, as Bear River ran off seven wins in a row before falling to Oakmont 5-2 on May 12.
East Union head coach Dan Triglia can turn to a pair of impressive pitchers for the start in the D-III opener at Dan McAuliffe Memorial Park. Ryan Fleckenstein has posted a 9-1 record with a 73 strikeouts and a 1.27 ERA. Justin Friend is 7-3 on the season after striking out 75 and totaling a 2.10 ERA.
Viola will likely counter with one of two Bruin senior pitchers, Myles Anderson or Denny Wibbenhorst. Anderson owns a 6-1 record with a 2.68 ERA and 64 strikeouts, while Wibbenhorst is 7-4 on the year with a 2.02 ERA and 73 Ks.
“I’ve got to go with one of those two,” said Viola. “We scrimmaged on Tuesday and both did well, so I still haven’t decided.”
At the plate, East Union is led by Robert King’s .404 batting average, while Fleckenstein has scored 29 runs and has hit .377 on the season. Robert Norton owns a .357 average at the plate.
Bear River is led by senior Britton Barber’s Sac-Joaquin-Section-leading .516 batting average and his 34 RBI. Classmate Anderson has a .394 average with 17 RBI and three home runs. Senior Eric Tomczak has driven in 19 runs in posting a .306 average, while sophomores Matt Hilton (.345, 12 RBI) and Ryan Giacomini (.321) have also been prolific at the plate for the Bruins.
The question heading into Saturday’s Division V playoff game between Central Catholic and Forest Lake Christian is which team is hotter entering postseason play.
FLC (17-6) won six of its last seven games, with a 10-0 loss to Woodland Christian on May 4 being the lone setback, to finish second in the Central Valley Christian League.
Central Catholic (21-2-1), the Southern League champion, ran off six straight victories, and had won 13 of 14 games, before losing to Denair 6-2 in its final game of the regular season on May 12.
On the mound, the Raiders are led by senior Drew Durossette, who struck out 65 batters in posting a 9-1 record with a 1.31 ERA and two shutout wins.
First-year FLC head coach John Flores said there is no doubt who will take the hill for Falcons in the 6 p.m. game Saturday at Galt Community Park.
Michael Weiss is the Falcons’ top hurler, racking up 123 strikeouts – second most in the Sacramento area – while compiling a 9-2 mark with a microscopic 1.04 ERA.
“Yes, we have to start him. There’s no choice,” said Flores. “It’s do-or-die time with the first game. After the first game, then it’s two out of three (with a consolation bracket), but you have to win that first one to get to that point.”
Weiss is also one of FLC’s top hitters, hammering out a .455 average with five home runs and 23 RBI. Joe Martin has six homers and a .479 average, while Kris Nunn is hitting .410 with 25 RBI. Grant Marple (.404, 12 RBI) and Mark Boatman (.373, 16 RBI) also are among the Falcon offensive leaders.
For the Raiders, Ryan Kuhn has racked up 34 runs scored and 14 stolen bases, while hitting at a .492 clip. Jared Lomeli leads the team with 30 RBI and is hitting .455 on the year, while Wyatt Hogan (.419, 3HR) gives CC three hitters above the .400 mark.
“I don’t think they’re going to think we’re a pushover,” Flores said. “I think it’s going to come down to whose pitcher is on and who makes that first error.”
To get there:
American River College
From I-80: Take the Madison Ave. exit and go east a couple of blocks until you reach College Oak Drive. Turn right (south) on College Oak Drive. The college is on that street a couple of blocks south of Madison Avenue.
Dan MacAuliffe Park
From I-80: Take either Watt Avenue exit or Douglas Blvd. exit (go east on Douglas and turn right (south) on Sunrise Blvd.) and proceed south to Highway 50. Take Highway 50 west and follow the Highway 50 west instructions.
From Highway 50 west: Take the How Avenue/Power Inn Road exit and go across Watt Avenue to College Town Drive. Proceed west to State University Drive East. Turn left. Ballpark is now on your left.
Galt Community Park
From Highway 99 southbound: Take the Jackson (104)/Twin Cities Road exit. Follow the off-ramp to the four-way stop. Turn left onto Twin Cities Road. Go over the overpass and continue about three-quarters of a mile until you reach Carillion Blvd. Turn right on Carillion and go about a mile. The park is at the corner of Carillion Blvd. and Walnut Ave. DO NOT TAKE THE WALNUT AVE. EXIT! IT DOES NOT GO EAST FROM 99 SOUTHBOUND.
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