Whippets expect to carry success into next season

Julian Sonn TOP
Julian Sonn (top) makes a force out at second base in the Whippets 8-1 win over Evansville in the first game at sectionals, held in Monroe June 7. James Dedrick takes off for first base after recording a hit in the game. The Whippets hit their stride midseason with a 13-game win streak and the coach said he expects that success to carry over to next year. (Bob Mischka photo)

Coach says senior leadership, consistent improvements were key

By Kevin Cunningham

Sports Correspondent

The Whitewater High School baseball team may have went 7-12 a season ago, and that resulted in a first-round playoff exit. This year, though, the team had high expectations according to head coach Jim Pease.

“We reached some of them [goals], and fell short on a few as well,” Pease said. “Overall, we knew we would be competitive and were really excited to see how we could match up with some of the top competition we had on the schedule this year.”

James Dedrick      The Whippets ended up going 19-6 during the 2016 regular season and continued its success in the postseason. The team won its last 13 games heading into the Sectional Final against Lodi.

In that game, Lodi started hot right off the bat, scoring six runs in the first inning. Pease said he didn’t think his team could escape the big, opening inning, despite having to play a sectional game directly before the Lodi contest.

“I don’t think we were fatigued,” Pease said. “We had a couple of chances to get out of the first inning with limited runs, and just did not get out of it. They hit a couple of balls hard that we had a chance to make plays on, and a couple of hits that were just in the right spots. We also had a couple of borderline pitches go the other way and it all added up to six runs.

“Our offense improved as the season went on. We started doing some of the little things on offense that helps the team like situational hitting, bunting, etc. We put some pressure on the other teams and then came up with some big hits. Against Lodi, we had some opportunities to do these types of things, but when you are down six, it is more difficult when you are looking for the big inning.”

Lodi defeated Whitewater 8-2, and out-hit the Whippets, 10-4. Over the course of the season, the team was led offensively by Bryce Parrish, who hit .400 while knocking in 25 RBIs and scoring 32 runs throughout the season. Julian Sonn also accumulated 25 RBIs and batted .387 while scoring 28 runs.

On the mound, Jason Curtis earned All-Conference honors by going 7-1 overall with a 1.44 ERA. Curtis struck out 71 batters in 58 innings pitched.

Parrish didn’t fare much worse, going 8-2 with a 1.46 ERA and striking out 39 batters. Pease said guys like Jacob Lee and Tyler Niemuth helped throughout the year as well, posting ERAs under 3.0 and 4.0, respectively.

During the team’s 13-game winning streak leading up to the Lodi game, the Whippets outscored their opponents, 116-32. Prior to that run, there were good reasons the Whippets had high expectations entering the season after going 7-12 a year ago.

“Last year we were very young and we returned all but two players this season,” Pease said. “We had a lot of experience coming back, and even though our record last year did not show it, there was a lot of improvement that happened and it carried into this season. Things changed this year mainly due to the hard work of the players and their dedication.”

With the hard work and dedication comes leadership. The Whippets had numerous leaders this year, as the team possessed impactful seniors.

“I can’t say enough about our seniors and the leadership they provided in helping turn the program around,” Pease said. “They worked very hard, and were determined to have a great season, but also to help build the program for the future as well. I put some pressure on them after we had a short losing streak, and said I am putting this in your hands to lead this team, and they did it very well.

“I have only been there for two seasons so I can’t really talk about what they meant over the last four years, but I can tell you that they were some of the first players I met when I became the coach, and they have worked very hard at their skills, and being great leaders. They are a huge part of our turn-around and we will miss them.”

Pease said the expectations will not be lowered for next season. The Whippets will return its entire pitching staff, two of its starting outfielders and three of its starting infielders. He also said there are going to be great players coming off the bench and that some of the players that played on junior varsity this season will be up in varsity.

Pease stressed how proud he is of the team and how hard they worked. He said they are all great players, but more importantly, great people.

“There are many things both on and off the field that I will remember about this group and the run, but I think the one thing that sticks out was the extra-inning walk-off home run by Julian Sonn in the regional final game at home,” Pease said. “We had a huge crowd and battled hard all game. That was an exciting time and one that will be remembered for a long time.”


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