Unfortunately for the Blue and Gold, a couple of unexpected losses early in the season, left it sitting on the outside of the eight-team playoff field.
Second-year head coach Ray Charles singles out a 9-8 loss to McQueen, in which the Raiders gave up eight runs in the sixth to blow a 7-1 lead, and a 13-3 loss to a non-playoff team in Wooster as games that contributed to the disappointing season.
Reed started the league season 2-11, but ended up 7-13 and still had a late shot to reach the postseason. The bottom three qualifiers for the playoffs, McQueen, Douglas and Damonte Ranch, all finished a game ahead of the Raiders at 8-12.
On three different occasions last year, Reed beat a team to open a league series only to lose to that same team by at least 10 runs in the second and final game of the series. That inconsistency will need to be avoided this season.
The Raiders’ focus this year will be getting off to a good start and beating the teams it is supposed to beat.
“We haven’t really talked about last year. We just talked about how we did end the year pretty strong, but that was last year,” Charles said. “We just know a couple of those games early in the year cost us. We know we can’t give away games that we have the opportunity to win.”
Despite missing out on the playoffs, Reed did have some shining moments at the end of last spring after upsetting Spanish Springs (Northern 4A champion) and Reno (No. 1 seed) in the final weeks of the regular season.
The Raiders also return many players from last year’s junior-dominated squad.
“I’m excited about the kids returning,” Charles said. “We’re an older team. I think all those factors will help us get better.”
Leading the way is first team all-region outfielder and four-year starter Ryan Butler. He sparked the Raiders’ offense from his leadoff spot as the top hitter in average, hits, runs, walks, doubles and triples. He’s a little banged up, but likely will return to his leadoff spot soon.
“He hits line drives and keeps it on the ground. With his speed, teams have to do a lot of things right in order to get him out,” Charles said. “On the bases, he’s a threat, too. He gets a single, he probably turns that into a double. He’s definitely a nice threat to have.”
Reed also returns arguably its two most effective pitchers from a year ago, senior Jake Means and junior Mark Nowaczewski. Means wasn’t part of last year’s starting rotation, but he was a stud in long relief. Means capped his solid season by holding Reno hitless over the final four innings and scoreless in his five-plus innings of relief during Reed’s 4-3 extra-inning upset victory over the Huskies.
Also expected to eat up innings are seniors Spencer Jones and A.J. Silva as well as newcomer Chris Flores.
“We have four solid starters and then everyone else will chip in,” Charles said. “I’m really excited about our staff. I haven’t really decided on a rotation. There’s one guy we haven’t decided on whether he’s going to be a starter or come in and shut the door…We only have three games a week, so I will have to adjust it to what works best for us. They’re all willing to do whatever role I ask them to do, so that’s nice.”
Charles believes having a full year under his belt with these players will certainly help now that everyone is on the same page. He likes the leadership he sees and hopes pitching ends up being a strength and helps the Raiders get to where they want to be at the end.
Reed’s boys basketball team seemed to benefit from some of the success of the football team with several players competing in both sports. Charles hopes that the basketball team’s somewhat surprising success of finishing second in the High Desert League will transfer over to baseball as many of his players were on the football or basketball squads or both.
“I try to jump on that bandwagon a little bit and take on that momentum that they’ve carried,” Charles said. “It’s a spring sport, so hopefully we can carry on that momentum. I’m really hoping we can. I’m excited about it. Hopefully that winning attitude carries on to our baseball team and we can continue to get better.”
Reed opens the annual Mike Bearman Memorial Tournament at 5 p.m. Thursday against Elko. The Raiders will then play at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Friday versus Douglas and Carson. Saturday will see them match up against Spanish Springs and Fallon at 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. respectively. All games will be played at home.
“I’m just excited about them. We had nice little preseason workouts. I think we’re a lot farther than we were last year,” Charles said. “I think one of the reasons is they got to know me and I got to know them, so that helps. I really like their work ethic so far. They’re attitude is really positive.”