Maturing Flashes turn up intensity|[02/17/08]

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 16, 2008

In his fourth season with the St. Aloysius Flashes, Clint Wilkerson still has a very young team — only two seniors and a handful of juniors. The bulk of the team is freshmen and sophomores.

But don’t be fooled by their academic class standing. This group of Flashes is anything but young. And Wlikerson believes that his team has enough experience to take the next step toward a Class 1A championship.

“We are young, but we are not young in experience,” said sophomore Ryno Martin-Nez, a highly touted shortstop and pitcher. “Most of us have played together since we were 10 years old, so we are used to one another. You know where everyone is at and know how everyone does things.”

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Martin-Nez and fellow sophomore Pierson Waring participated in a select camp in Arizona. Both were supposed to go back earlier this month, but a broken arm during basketball season kept Waring from making the trip. Wilkerson said Waring will have his cast removed on Tuesday, the day after the team’s early-season showdown with Stringer.

The Flashes lost in two games in the playoffs to Stringer a season ago and the early showdown has been circled on their calendar for a long time.

“Ever since that game ended,” said Martin-Nez, who helped the Flashes to an opening-night 11-3 win over Riverside on Friday.

Junior catcher Sean Weaver, who hit .398 with 34 RBIs last season, is one of four Vicksburg Post All-County players returning to the team. Only all-county pick Jordan Muirhead, who led the team with a .440 average, and Marsh Willis are not returning because of graduation.

“We may be young on paper, but these guys have been together for a long time and they have played a lot of baseball,” Wilkerson said.

The familiarity also has paid off during spring training. The fiery Wilkerson is reknowned for his brutal workouts and practices. He said he hasn’t let off the intensity in his four years, but the players have responded to the brutal tactics and learned from them. This year, he said, he rarely has had to make players run for disciplinary reasons.

“We have matured so much,” Wilkerson said, adding, “but we still have a lot of work to do.”

Martin-Nez and Stephen Evans, both all-county picks as freshman, will anchor the Flashes’ pitching staff with the veteran Weaver behind the plate. Wilkerson calls Weaver, “without a doubt the best defensive catcher in (Class) 1A.”

Evans, Martin-Nez and Waring will anchor the infield and Waring may see some time in center field as well. Judson Gatling also will battle for infield playing time. Regan Nosser, Brendan Beesley, Blake Haygood and Kruz Federick will vie for time in the outfield.

“We are tired of practice and are ready to play,” Weaver said. “Practice sometimes gets rough with him. I think it will be a good season. We are ready to beat some folks.”