Thursday, June 10, 2004 | 9:41 a.m.
One loss deflated them. One loss awoke them. Yet both defeats led to a 4A state championship for the Reno High baseball team.
For Jeff Schoenbachler, they are the high school moments that will last forever. The Huskies' left-handed ace pitcher is the Sun All-State Player of the Year because of his outstanding efforts that led Reno to its first state baseball championship in two decades.
For the Huskies, the road to the title actually began last season when they lost to Green Valley in the state championship game. That was the downer loss, sending the Huskies' core group of juniors home with a sour taste that would set in their mouths for a year.
Yet as Schoenbachler and the Huskies hoisted the state trophy at Carson's Ron McNutt Field last month, that defeat was only a distant memory. Reno defeated Cimarron-Memorial in the championship game, outslugging the Spartans with as much dominance as Schoenbachler displayed in defeating Silverado in the opening round.
"All the hard work finally paid off after we got so close last year," Schoenbachler said Tuesday from Hawaii, where he is on his senior trip.
The past month has brought great excitement for Schoenbachler, even beyond the state title and the Hawaiian vacation. The Minnesota Twins selected him Monday in the fifth round of the Major League Baseball entry draft and though he had originally committed to play college baseball at Long Beach State, Schoenbachler instead signed a minor league contract worth about $200,000. He will report to rookie ball in Fort Myers, Fla., when he returns.
Although he also played football and other sports growing up, Schoenbachler always felt he would end up on the diamond.
"I knew I had more of a future in baseball than in any other sport," Schoenbachler said.
Reno came into the season as the state's best team and left that way, in large part because of Schoenbachler. A southpaw with an array of pitches, Schoenbachler compiled a 12-1 record for Reno and also recorded a save. He struck out 115 batters in 75 innings, allowing just 40 hits and 19 walks.
Huskies coach Pete Savage called on Schoenbachler to start the team's most crucial games.
"He was very competitive and was able to focus whenever pressure situations happened," Savage said.
The golden road nearly turned black for Reno as the region playoffs began, though, as the Huskies dropped their opening game to McQueen. The loss shocked the heavily favored Huskies and Schoenbachler said it propelled them through the remainder of the postseason, as they did not lose another game.
"It definitely humbled us," Schoenbachler said. "From there, we just kind of bonded and jelled."