By Vern Hee
Last year, the Tonopah Muckers softball team went to state the hard way. They were the No. 2 seed going into the tournament. The Muckers played in the loser bracket last year, which made getting to the state finals tougher by making them play some extra games.
They ended up making the state finals and playing Indian Springs in Reno. They lost, and this year all their effort will be spent making the finals again.
Ken Jose, head Muckers coach, has been at Tonopah since 1988, and coached baseball until 1997.
He has coached the softball team since 1997, when he said he has coached six years and his team has made the state finals. He has yet to win a state championship. He is thinking this is the year.
He said he enjoys coaching and will coach as long as he can.
“I get a kick out of watching the girls finish. Watching the girls develop in talent and change in attitude as they get older. Many of the girls I coached when they were in grade school. It’s fun seeing the different attitudes change.”
This year he believes his team is full of talent, which is spearheaded by pitcher Megan Donham.
Jose said his ace was a freshman when she started last year.
“She was good last year, and she should be even better this year now that she has more experience.”
In addition to the pitching, Jose believes his defense is one of the best in the league.
“We have a top rate shortstop in Deanna Vanpoucke. Vanpoucke is also a power hitter for the team. We will have Alli Friel at second base, Bria Galli at third and Julia Klapper will be catching. This year we will be aggressive on offense and aggressive on defense,” said Jose.
This season the Muckers will be returning 12 players to the field, which means the team will have veteran players at all the positions.
The Muckers don’t have a junior varsity program and will have to develop the bench as they play. In division IV, teams play double-headers, which cuts down on travel cost. The first game is a non-league game and the second counts as a league game. So coaches in division IV can play their benches in the first game to develop players.
At Tonopah High school, because there are only so many girls at the school of 140 students, many female athletes play all the sports. Most of the team played on the state championship volleyball team in the fall and want to win state in softball.
Jose said he welcomes the attitude. “It was just a matter of time before the school had this attitude. It is a long time coming. Schools like Alamo have it. Now our girls can think like they do and expect to win the state title every year. This is the feeling they need to have. I like that they are thinking about it and looking forward to be there,” he said.
The first game of the season for the Muckers will be next week, March 8-9 in Yerington at a tournament.
Jose is assisted by John Klapper and Melissa Valerino.