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‘Here we go’: Tonopah coach gets ready for next year

TONOPAH — A retired Nye County Sheriff’s sergeant who traveled the nation has parked his RV in Tonopah once again to coach the Muckers baseball team.

“Not letting those kids down,” said Coach Bill Stark when asked why he decided to come back to lead the team. “What’s three months out of my life? If it helps you guys, I’ll be there.”

The Muckers baseball team hasn’t made an appearance in the regional championship since 2021. Tonopah’s baseball team has consistently ranked in third place in the league standings, however, in the 1A Southern baseball division only the top two teams from both leagues advance.

That’s not the only gripe Stark has with the rules for the 1A division. 1A is also subject to a pitch count, which restricts the number of pitches a player can have in a day to protect the students’ arms. Players can only have 110 pitches in a day and pitchers must have a four-day break in between.

Yet with a small team like the Muckers, searching the pool of pitchers is more like a barrel.

“It’s not something I think should apply to 1A,” Stark said. “Because we have 20 kids, one or two pitchers maybe, where Cheyenne High School in Vegas, they’ve got 25 pitchers so they don’t care about the pitch count.”

As their pitchers are resting after playing games that don’t count toward the league, the Muckers had to substitute players who weren’t traditionally pitchers for important games, according to the coach. But Stark understands the safety standards in order to protect kids from baseball-related injuries.

At the start of the season the Muckers were up 2-0 in the league standings after defeating Beatty twice, but near the end of the regular season they were scheduled to play four league games within five days against the top-ranked teams in the division.

Weston Morgan, who recently graduated, was a top performer for the Muckers, and had the best earned run average on the team (6.17) and the best batting average on the team (.582). Across the state, although Tonopah didn’t make the playoffs, Morgan was such a strong performer that he was still among the top 10 players batting average, top three in RBI’s and top 20 in earned run average.

“This kid practices baseball every day of the year in the snow, in the rain, in the heat,” Stark said. “He didn’t care, that’s what he does.”

Cody Pippin, who graduated this year, Brekken Miller and Drew Otteson were also top performers for the team and together. While they were playing this season, the team was dominant, winning 10 out of 14 games. Prior to playing Round Mountain the team was on a five-game winning streak.

Round Mountain defeated the Muckers and Indian Springs was their last set of games that the Muckers could step up to the challenge to defeat the Knights to make it to the regionals.

But the team didn’t know that their coach wasn’t going to be there for their last league game.

The diagnosis

Leading up to the last major league game for the Muckers, they were coming off of a winning streak and the pressure was on against Indian Springs.

Prior to the last game of the season on May 3, Stark got a call from his wife “and told me she had cancer.”

He had to sit in the dugout, where he felt numb and had to let the other coaches take over the game. Stark had to miss the last games of the season to help drive his wife back and forth to Reno every other day for testing.

“I didn’t get to go to the award banquet, I didn’t get to do any of that,” Stark said.

The team wished his wife a speedy recovery and their best wishes. They even created a bat-a-thon where they fund-raised for her medical expenses. The town of Tonopah banded together to donate funds for travel in support of his wife.

His wife has made it through the first round of chemotherapy and will have to continue the treatment every two weeks. The Starks will need to drive four hours every two weeks to Reno for four months until medical staff can ensure the cancer cells haven’t spread.

“As soon as my wife’s done with her surgeries and all of that stuff, we’re going to load up the RV and go,” he said.

Good to coach next year

Coach Stark will still remain the coach either way, as his wife’s treatment won’t finish up until next year and he is already planning how to build up the team as the team lost five seniors with a small pool of students.

The small class sizes concern Stark as there isn’t the same baseball support like in other towns in the region.

“It would help us tremendously if they would have a baseball program in middle school,” Stark said. “But instead, they only have track. I get kids from little leagues who haven’t played baseball in four or five years.”

He has spoken to many of the principals and the athletic director of the school but it seems to Stark that no one is interested in fixing the problem. In a small town like Tonopah, baseball isn’t played year-round like the town of Pahrump that has more baseball programs outside of high school. And according to the coach, he doesn’t know too many parents that could afford to put them through programs that travel and play year-round.

But the team had some proud moments, like when the team beat Round Mountain at the start of the season. “Shutting them down and beating them 4-0, that was the icing on the cake for me,” the coach said.

“Last year was last year, that’s where it stays,” Stark said. “And this year is a new year, here we go.”

Contact Jimmy Romo at jromo@pvtimes.com. Follow @JimmyRomo.News on Instagram.

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