By Ray Hamill — It’s been a long road back for Hoopa senior Milton Mabry, who returned this past week for the Warriors.
The versatile standout athlete missed most of the football season and the entire basketball season after being injured in a car accident in the fall, but was back on the field of competition on Tuesday, as the Warriors pulled out a thrilling 3-2 win over Trinity in baseball.
“That was a big deal for us,” Hoopa head coach John Snell said of Mabry’s return. “He did a good job in the field for us.”
Mabry has worked hard to get back on the field, earning the praise of his coach.
“He’s been through multiple surgeries and he’s been working hard,” Snell said. “Milton has really stepped up his effort in practice.”
The Warriors got the season off to a flying start against Trinity, with Joseph McGinnis hitting a two-out, two-RBI single to centerfield to plate the tying and go-ahead runs.
It was the team’s first win since the 2018 season after going winless last year.
There are mounting fears that this season will be canceled due to the ongoing concerns with COVID-19 and Snell doesn’t feel optimistic they will get to play again.
If that’s the case, the second-year head coach joked he’s likely to be the first-ever high school baseball coach to go winless in his first year and undefeated in his second.
If the Warriors do get to play more than one game this spring, Snell feels they will be far better prepared than last year.
“For a lot of the kids, it’s amazing how much they listened last year,” the coach said. “We’re seeing kids looking stronger and more aggressive.”
A big difference, according to the coach, has been the addition of a batting cage, something they were lacking last spring.
The cage was donated by the Arcata High School team.
“That donation was awesome,” Snell said. “That’s really helped us this year.”
So too has the return of Daniel Minton and John Smith, the team’s top two pitchers who each looked strong in the season opener.
“They’re looking gritty and they’re playing hard to the end,” Snell said of the duo. “They don’t give up.”
Minton is a returning all-league selection.
Snell will also look for some solid innings out of his Nos. 3 and 4 pitchers, McGinnis and John Marshall, and says if they can throw strikes consistently they’ll be a threat.
McGinnis is playing high school baseball for the first time, while Marshall is a dangerous lefty.
Sophomore Kagan Renteria is a returning all-league honorable mention and another player the coach expects a big season out of in 2020.
“He runs down the ball like no one on my team,” Snell said. “And he works hard.”
Likewise with senior first baseman David Ruiz, who also is off to a strong start this season.
“He’s moving around and playing better defense,” Snell said of Ruiz. “And he’s stepped up his work ethic.”
There is, however, still plenty for the Hoopa boys to work on.
“We just have to do some fundamentals,” he said. “We have to limit our errors in the field and we have to throw more strikes.”