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3A STATE: Tichenor proves coach wrong in leading Virgin Valley to third straight state crown

RENO — Boyd Wittwer didn’t think Tanner Tichenor was good enough to pitch for his team.

But the Virgin Valley coach has never been happier to be wrong.

Tichenor threw a four-hitter Saturday to lead the Bulldogs (25-8) to an 8-1 win over Truckee (29-9) in the Class 3A state title game at Aces Ballpark. It’s the third straight state crown for Virgin Valley.

“The crazy thing is at the first of the season I wasn’t even sure Tanner was one of my pitchers,” Wittwer said. “We didn’t even throw him until about halfway through the season. And I’ve got to give him credit. He kept pestering me.”

That persistence paid off for Tichenor and his teammates. The junior right-hander threw a second consecutive postseason complete game after shutting out Boulder City in the 3A Southern League title game.

“This one today, he just did a phenomenal job,” Wittwer said. “Sometimes the kids are smarter than the coaches.

“Based on past years and what I’d seen, I didn’t think he was going to be in the top five or so pitchers on this team. But obviously I was wrong. I’ve been wrong before, and I don’t mind being wrong when it works out.”

Tichenor notched two strikeouts, but only gave up one walk. Truckee’s lone run came in the top of the first after Jordan Deiro led off with a triple and scored on an RBI groundout by James DePew.

But Tichenor was outstanding the rest of the way, getting ahead of Truckee hitters throughout the game. Tichenor threw 68 pitches, and 49 of them were strikes. He threw first-pitch strikes to 17 of 24 batters.

“It felt really good,” Tichenor said. “I knew when coach told me (I was going to start) that I could go out there and do my job.”

Tichenor also helped himself with the bat, coming up with one of the biggest hits of the game in a bases-clearing triple in the bottom of the first that keyed a five-run first inning.

“He had a phenomenal game on the mound, and that was a real big hit,” Wittwer said. “That was a crushing blow early in the game.”

Tichenor said the five-run first helped make his job on the mound easier.

“Knowing I had a four-run lead, it was really easy just to stay calm and relaxed,” Tichenor said.

Wittwer said the big inning early helped take the Wolverines out of the game.

“That’s a team that has a fantastic record and they are used to winning,” Wittwer said. “To get up on them early, it’s a big deal to get in their psyche a little bit. The longer you let them hang into it, the more apt you are to get burnt.”

Jason Wittwer was 3-for-4 with a double, a triple and three runs for Virgin Valley. Brandt Eaton and Johnny Gleave each added two hits for the Bulldogs.

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