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Gators’ goals unchanged

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

At least that’s what first-year Green Valley baseball coach Matt Stoner hopes.

Stoner took over the Gators program in November after Nick Garritano left to take over as coach at College of Southern Nevada.

Garritano and his predecessor, Rodger Fairless, left quite a track record for Stoner to live up to.

“It’s very hard to follow those two guys,” Stoner said. “But I have support from Coach Garritano, and that’s been phenomenal.”

Fairless and Garritano combined to win eight state championships at Green Valley since 1993. Garritano won 315 games in 12 seasons as the school’s coach, including state titles in 2001 and 2003.

Stoner knows the expectations at Green Valley remain high.

“It’s not like I stepped into this thing where it’s a rebuilding year,” Stoner said. “It never really is here.”

Stoner is blessed with two senior leaders in their fourth year in the program.

Shortstop Brett Harrison earned second-team all-state honors last season after batting .416 with eight homers and 52 RBIs. He has signed to play at Hawaii.

Third baseman Chad Whiteaker is also back for his fourth varsity season. He hit .515 last season in limited action while battling injuries. Whiteaker is set to walk on at UNLV.

Junior second baseman Evan Van Hoosier hit .456 with six homers last season and is back for his third varsity season.

“Those three guys right there, they’re top talent in the town, and it’s been a blessing to have those guys,” Stoner said.

Harrison said he was surprised at the coaching change but glad that Stoner, an assistant the past two years, got the job.

“I was kind of shocked, because I didn’t have any idea that it was going to happen,” Harrison said. “I knew (principal Jeff) Horn and everyone would make the right decision and get us where we need to be for this year.”

Whiteaker said having Stoner and familiar assistants Ryan Tabor and Sean Larimer on the staff has been important in easing the transition.

“It makes everything a lot easier, (more) comfortable,” Whiteaker said. “Especially since they know how it’s run and we know how it’s run, so it works. It all holds it together.”

Harrison said the seniors have been focusing on leadership this spring.

“Especially with a new coach and a lot of new kids on the team this year, having to show them the way is a big deal for us,” Harrison said.

The new coach said he won’t to try to change the “Green Valley way.”

“Just Gator baseball. The same thing Fairless taught and the same thing Garritano taught,” Stoner said. “I’ve seen both of them coach and been around them, and we’re going to keep that same tradition. Nothing’s going to change. It’s going to be hard work, dedication and doing the fundamentals correctly.”

The goals for the team won’t change, either.

“It’s going to take some luck and it’s going to take some good breaks, but we definitely have the talent to do it. We definitely can get back to the state tournament,” Stoner said. “And our ultimate goal is to win the whole thing.

“That doesn’t change here. You know that.”

Contact prep sports editor Damon Seiters at dseiters@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4587.

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