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Baseball: Alma’s Whitson finds opportunities

<p>photo by JAMIE MITCHELL</p><p>Alma’s Nate Whitson turns the double play against Van Buren during a recent game at Alma. Whitson leads the Airedales at the plate as the squad faces three league foes this week in hopes of earning a playoff berth.</p>

photo by JAMIE MITCHELL

Alma’s Nate Whitson turns the double play against Van Buren during a recent game at Alma. Whitson leads the Airedales at the plate as the squad faces three league foes this week in hopes of earning a playoff berth.

Nate Whitson likes to use the word perseverance when talking about his baseball career. After all, good baseball players create their opportunities with hard work.

“Baseball’s taught me that perseverance is so important,” Whitson said. “If you have a goal, you have to put your mind to do it. That helps me with life, too. When you apply yourself you can succeed.”

Two years ago, Whitson was an after thought for Alma coach Kevin Edwards, occasionally used as a courtesy runner. This week, he may be the difference in whether the Airedales play beyond Friday’s regular season finale with Shiloh Christian. Alma (11-12, 7-5) started the final week battling three teams - Vilonia, Greenbrier and Shiloh Christian - for a playoff berth. The Airedales close the season Friday with Shiloh Christian.

“It’s possible to get in at 8-6, but I’d rather win out and not have to worry about it,” Whitson said. “If we take care of our business, then we won’t have to worry about anyone. I just think we need to focus on our next four games.”

“He’s come a long way,” Edwards said. “He’s leading the team in several categories.”

Whitson, who has played every position in high school except pitcher and catcher, has settled in nicely this season at shortstop, allowing Alex Burris to handle some of the catching duties. Burris and Adam Brown alternate between third base and catcher, depending on who is pitching.

Whitson leads the team with a .403 batting average, including a team-best 27 hits and 24 RBIs. He even has 10 stolen bases to go along witha .463 on base percentage.

The complete player? He could even pitch, if called upon, says Edwards.

“He’s actually been throwing some bullpens,” Edwards said. “If push comes to shove, he can step up for us.”

“I started playing third base last year and he (Edwards) wanted Burris behind the plate, so I started playing some at short,” Whitson said. “It doesn’t matter to me where he (Edwards) puts me.”

“Nate is a guy who really gives it his all and truly strives to be a leader,” Burris said. “He means a lot to this team with his leadership and skill. He does great things for us.”

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