All-league honors were a little harder to come by this spring than in years past. Over the past decade, the Northern 4A has been split into two leagues and each league’s coaches picked an all-star team. With 11 Northern 4A member schools, coaches opted to play under a one-league format this past season and thus chose one all-league team.
“I was very pleased with the number of kids we got recognized,” Spanish Springs coach Ben Hofmann said. “I thought we could’ve done a little better. But if you figure over the last nine years, there have been two leagues, and only half the number of kids were honored this year, then to get eight who made it, is very good.”
Of the eight, Tanner Oates was the lone Spanish Springs player to be named to the Northern 4A’s first team. The senior second baseman hit over .500 in league play and manned the No. 2 slot in the Cougars’ order all spring. Oates, who will attend Willamette University in Salem, Ore., has been a three-year starter for the SSHS nine and was all-league as both a sophomore and junior.
“Tanner was every bit as good as anyone else on the first team,” Hofmann said. “He is definitely a first-team second baseman. He has been invaluable to our program.”
The biggest disappointment for the Cougars when the awards list was revealed came at shortstop. Spanish Springs senior Jake Bray, widely regarded as one of the best shortstops, if not players in the state, was named to the Northern 4A’s second team. Bray hit .480 in league play and is set to attend Jacksonville State in Alabama for his collegiate career.
“I nominated him for player of the year as well as offensive player of the year and first team shortstop,” Hofmann said. “He is one of the best high school players in northern Nevada. He is a kid, if you were picking a team of all-stars from northern Nevada, he’d be one of the first picks. I was a little disappointed he didn’t make first team.
In addition to Bray, Spanish Springs put three other players on the all-league second team. Malcolm Anderson, who led the Cougars in wins with six, was a second-team pitcher. His battery mate, Cougars catcher Kyle Clark, was a second-team pick as well. The other SSHS athlete to get a second team nod was Kendall Murphy, as a utility player.
The Cougars saw three more players named to the Northern 4A’s honorable mention list. The trio was pitchers Chadd Little and Dallas Mellum and infielder Chase Kittilsen.
At Reed, the Raiders’ program got three players who earned all-league distinction. Junior outfielder Ryan Butler set the offensive tone for Reed all season from his leadoff slot. He was named a first-team all-star after leading the Raiders in average, hits, runs, walks, doubles and triples.
“If you make that first team, you’ve earned it,” Reed coach Ray Charles said, alluding to the consolidation of all-league honors. “Ryan is such a hard kid to get out. He’s a grinder and he’s fast. He’s tough to pitch to because he puts the ball in play and does not strike out often. He’s a great leadoff hitter for us.
“Everybody who played against us recognized that. He plays hard and doesn’t let down. He’s a nemesis to other teams.”
Another Reed junior, Jason Stroberg, shared second-team catcher honors with Clark of Spanish Springs and Zach Parkinson of Galena.
Reed’s other all-league pick came in the honorable mention category where senior Roberto Velazquez was selected.
“Stroberg had a nice year. It’s a good honor for him,” Charles said. “And for Berto, it was a great honor. He will run through a wall for any coach he has. He is a good kid and I was glad for him.”
•In the 3A ranks, Sparks won the Mount Rose League and not surprisingly a handful of Railroaders garnered all-league selections.
SHS coach Greg Vasko was picked as the league’s coach of the year after guiding Sparks to a 17-9 record, the conference championship and its best season in more than a decade.
“It does feel good to win that honor,” Sparks coach Greg Vasko said. “We won our division. That would probably be the first reason, and then we went from last place a year ago to first place this year.”
Sparks senior infielder/pitcher Dennis Morelli took home the league’s player of the year award.
“Coaches saw his determination,” Vasko said. “He was determined to give his best effort every time on the field. He had a no-hitter, one or two one hitters and he crushed the ball, hitting around .500 at the plate. He really worked hard in the offseason and got ready for the season. He was also a good leader and other coaches saw that.”
Four more Railroader players earned first-team selections. Those were infielder Brandon Harris, outfielder Leonel Abundis, pitcher Martin Jordan and utility player Kirk Putman.
Seniors Joe Christ and Tyler Dresbach were named second-team members at catcher and pitcher respectively while Jared Longland was a second team infielder pick for Sparks.
Sparks junior Quinn Lightfoot was named to the Mount Rose League’s honorable mention list.
“We got all nine starters on there,” Vasko said. “I was really happy with that. The kids played really well this year. The kids wanted to do better than last year and we improved in almost every category. I compared stats. It’s like night and day. It will be tough to replace all those kids.”