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There’s no panic at Placer

Despite two-game skid, Hillmen remain confident as the postseason looms
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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Seniors Spencer Zaputil and Joel Thys wrestled and joked around the batting cage Tuesday as if they hadn’t a care in the world. Meanwhile Matt Dougherty and Ryan Lipsmeyer playfully shagged fly balls in the outfield on a crisp afternoon at James Field. There were clearly no lingering effects from last week’s two Pioneer Valley League losses that put a chink in Placer High’s stellar regular season and left the Hillmen clinging to a slim lead in the PVL standings. The Placer seniors were confident that the team would bounce back after a 6-0 loss to Whitney last Friday — the first time the Hillmen have been shut out all season. “I think we’re alright right now,” Thys said. “It was kind of a weird week because we beat Woodcreek and then we lost the next two. We thought we had a lot of momentum. I think we’re going to continue to have fun, get some momentum going our way and we’ll be fine.” Placer (14-7 overall, 8-2 PVL) will visit Colfax (3-11, 2-8) on Thursday, looking to right the ship. Junior Anthony Amara will get the start on the mound. “We’re going to come out Thursday with the same approach we’ve had all year,” Amara said. “There’s no pressure on us. We’ve been in a little slump, but that happens in baseball. I think we’ll get out of it soon.” Placer’s pitching has been steady all season with seniors Matt Ross and Matt Dougherty throwing well and Amara coming on strong from the start. The Hillmen offense has missed senior leadoff hitter Jordan Arndt, who suffered a stress fracture nearly a month ago and is still sidelined. Junior Josh Klem has been out for two weeks with mononucleosis, but should be back in action this week. “The kids have persevered,” Placer coach Larry Prewitt said. “We’ve had a couple injuries, but guys have filled in and played well. They’ve won some ballgames where they could have given up. We came out against El Dorado and just didn’t get a couple breaks. In the Whitney game, we were just flat. I haven’t seen us like that in a long time.” The switch-hitting Thys is a major run producer in the middle of Placer’s lineup while Zaputil and Griffin Quick have also come on strong at the plate. “The past couple games hits just haven’t dropped for us,” Thys said. “If we can get our lineup back on fire, that would help out a lot.” With games remaining against Colfax Thursday and Lincoln on Friday, Placer still controls its own destiny in its quest for the PVL championship and the top seed heading into the Division IV playoffs. Winning the PVL would mean avoiding two-time defending section champion Oakdale until the title game in the playoff bracket. “We haven’t focused on playoffs at all,” Thys said. “But I know we’d like to face Oakdale again. We’d like to get another shot at them.” For now, the Hillmen are focused on locking up their first outright PVL title. They shared the championship with Bear River last season. “We can’t take anything for granted,” Prewitt said. “I said from the start this is kind of a topsy-turvy league. All we’ve got to do is get the job done these last two games.”