Baseball is more than a game for Cordova third baseman Chayanne Nunez. It is a memorial.
Nunez writes the initials R.I.P. on his cap and the date 4-19-12, the day his grandmother Yolada Mira of the Dominican Republic died.
“I lived with her for eight years,” said Nunez, a junior at Cordova.
With baseball a Dominican Republic national pastime, Nunez got his first exposure to the sport there. He has been part of a winning season for the Wolves, who won their 14th game, 15-5, over Overton on May 1 at Cordova.
Nunez scored two runs, one that gave the Wolves a 3-0 lead in the first inning, hit a single in the fourth inning, walked twice and pitched a no-hit fourth inning striking out one and walking two.
The victory improved the Wolves to 14-8 before they started District 14-AAA tournament play on Saturday against No. 2 seed Arlington.
A victory over Bolton propelled the Wolves into the third seed.
“We finally got some momentum. We are learning to play with passion. Baseball has got to be fun and I am trying to get them to learn that the game is meant to be played hard and to be played having a good time. They are learning that,” said Cordova third-year head coach Yogi Vanaman, who returned to his alma mater.
He played for his father Mike Vanaman in 2005, 2006 and 2007. In 2006 Vanaman led the state in triples with nine and batted .353 as a senior.
His father began coaching him when he was 10 in Amateur Athletic Union baseball and also competitive baseball. He learned “everything” from him he said.
“The biggest thing I learn is you have no choice but to go 100 percent. If you don’t you will not play or you will hear it the whole way home in the car.”
Pleased with the Wolves’ effort against Overton, Vanaman said they are learning to stay in the game longer and to focus.
“When they all learn this is a team sport and we have a role and a job to do, then we are successful,” he said. “I think they did that tonight.”
Season-long leading hitters short stop Christian Arrambide and pitcher LeDarius Parson, who bat second and third, sparked the Wolves, each going three-for-four. Arrambide scored three runs along with second baseman Zach Myers.
Arrambide’s triple in the first inning was followed by a single by Parson. Arrambide gave the Wolves a lead they never lost in the five-inning game.
“They have hit extremely well,” said Vanaman of Arrambide and Parson.
Arrambide said, “I saw the ball well. I think the whole team saw the ball well. We had to make slight adjustments but I think we stuck in there pretty good.”
Cordova scored two more runs in the first when Parson and Nunez, who had walked, scored on a bunt-turned-triple by Erion Greer.
The Wolves scored six runs on three hits in the second inning to take a 9-0 lead.
Arrambide and Parson each singled. Left fielder Daniel Williams scored on the first of Arrambide’s 2 RBI. Arrambide later scored on a passed ball. Parson advanced Williams to third base with a single. Aldofo Diaz, Myers, Greer and first baseman Ryan Moses, who tripled, each scored.
Overton (7-8-1) would use four pitchers as the Wolves got 13 hits.
“They hit the ball really well,” said Steve Bercier, who is in his 17th year as the Wolverines’ head coach. “We didn’t make the plays like we should have made. A lot of errors, unforced errors, and that is pretty much the ball game.”
The Wolverines made five errors.
Overton, which graduated seven seniors from last year’s team that won 17 games, has 10 sophomores, two freshmen, three juniors, three seniors.
“We have been very good for four years. We are very young but we are working at it and we are getting better every day,” said Bercier, who played at Western Kentucky.
Left fielder Dallas Luckett and Tony Baldaramna each got two of Overton’s seven hits. They, along with Tristan Price, have led Overton hitting this season. Luckett scored a team-high two runs.
Cordova defeated Overton 18-5 in the season opener March 12.
“I knew you couldn’t give up against Overton because they have the power to come back. They are well coached,” said Arrambide, a senior who was quarterback on the football team and has signed to play football at Bethel University.
The season has brought improvement by working together, improved communication and listening to Vanaman and other coaches said Arrambide.
The Wolves have also had fun said Arrambide.
“We are starting to have fun the last few games since we are loosening up. We were a little tense,” he said. “We are starting to hit better, field better, perform better.”
After a recent win against Bolton, the Wolves came out with “life and energy and it breeds enthusiasm,” said Vanaman. “If we come to play, I expect them to win. It all depends on when they come to play and they did tonight. I’m grateful.”
The Wolves also got the win with defense. Arrambide turned two double plays, his highest in a single game this season.
“I let my pitchers know beforehand if the ball is hit to them I got them, so throw it to me so I can get the double play,” he said.
With two out and the bases loaded, Arrambide also came in relief for Moses in the fifth inning after Overton scored three runs to whittle the 15-2 lead.
Overton scored two runs in the third before Parson got a strike out on his 48th pitch of the game. Cordova took a 10-2 lead in the third when Parson scored on a passed ball. He started the inning with a single, stole second and went to third on a single by Myers, who later scored. Nunez scored on a passed ball.
In the fourth, Arrambide doubled home Greer, who was a pinch runner for catcher Tyler Shellhart, who walked. Shellhart, a junior, wrestled in the 138-145 pound class this year, finishing ranked No. 18 in the state.
Arrambide later scored on an error for a 14-2 lead and Myers topped off the Wolves’ scoring after singles by Diaz and Moses.
Luckett, Bryan Taylor and Baldarmna scored for Overton in the fifth. Luckett tripled, Baldarmna singled and Taylor was a pinch runner. Overton took advantage of one of two Cordova errors in the game, four walks and a passed ball.
The season continues a learning curve for Vanaman, who was short stop and first baseman at Union and Southwest Tennessee Community College before finishing at Christian Brothers University. He graduated in 2011.
“You can’t coach every kid the same way. Some kids you got to get on them and challenge them and other kids you’ve got to wrap your arm around them and encourage them,” he said. “There is a fine line between how to do that with these kids. I am learning that every player is different based on a plurality of things.”
He is also learning delegation and “how to be humble.”
With Bartlett, which finished first in Region 14-AAA, and Arlington the teams to beat for the district title the Wolves entered the tournament with “a shot” said Vanaman.
“So much of it is confidence,” he noted. “You have got to believe you can actually win the ball game.”
Arrambide said, “I think we can go far if we keep on playing the way we do, stick to our pitch counts, back up our pitchers, keep hitting the way we have been hitting against the top dogs like Bartlett and Arlington.”
BILL SORRELL is a freelance writer for The Bartlett Express and other Journal West 10 Media LLC publications. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.