Spanish Springs managed just five hits Saturday and three of those came in the bottom of the seventh inning already facing a six-run deficit. Prior to the seventh, when the SSHS crew scored its lone run, it only got two runners to even reach second base and just one advanced to third.
Cougars coaches knew heading into the spring season, the offense might struggle at times, but the team looked to be headed in the right direction after getting off to a 5-1 start and even pulling out a 15-12 triumph over Galena in both schools league opener earlier this week.
"We had good approaches at the plate Tuesday," Spanish Springs coach Ben Hofmann, said, alluding to his team's offensive production against Galena. "But that has not transferred back to practice and into our last two games. And then today, we also faced a good pitcher. You can't fall back into bad habits at the plate."
Damonte Ranch pitcher Matt Olsen deserves some credit for silencing the Spanish Springs sticks. The Mustangs right-hander limited Spanish Springs to one run and four hits in a six-strikeout, 1-walk performance. He was pulled with no outs in the top of the seventh after the first two Cougars hitters singled.
"Matt did a good job mixing his pitches," Damonte Ranch coach Jon Poulson said. "He had his breaking ball going and he located his fastball. When you've got those two things going, it's a tough combination. He's a solid No. 3 for us. We like our staff."
Trailing 6-0, Spanish Springs (5-3, 1-2) got its only run of the conference clash in the final frame. Vinny Agliolo and Chase Hauder started the inning with singles to end Olsen's day. However, Damonte reliever Nate Nolan did his job, getting the first hitter he faced to ground into a double play. Jake Haley followed with a two-out RBI single, plating Agliolo for the run.
Damonte Ranch (6-2, 2-1) got on the scoreboard first, thanks to an unearned run in the top of the second. Andy Calgaert reached on an error and then circled the sacks after another Cougars error and a Kyle Richard single.
The Mustangs pushed their edge to 5-0 with four more runs in the third. Matt Gover had a double in the inning and Calingaert added a single but those were the only two hits in the Damonte rally. Spanish Springs gave up a walk and committed two more errors in that inning.
"I thought when we got opportunities to put pressure on them we did a good job," Poulson said. "We got a couple runs here and there. We had that big third inning, which helped us, and we got a good pitching effort. I felt like we played a pretty complete game."
On the day, Spanish Springs committed five errors. Only one of Damonte's six runs was earned. The Cougars' fielding woes spoiled a solid pitching performance by SSHS starter Garrett Covington. He scattered eight Damonte hits, but walked just one and struck out three.
"Covington pitched a heck of a game," Hofmann said. "He kept them off balance. They barely hit a ball hard. They're a good team, probably one of the best in town. and he did a great job. When he's pitching, we have to play defense behind him, because he's not a guy that's going to strike a lot of people out."
Damonte tacked on its final run in the sixth. Pinch hitters Isaac Flyer and Patrick Wolfe both singled. Then, Justin Bridgman got a bloop single to fall, off the glove of a diving Cougars player, in shallow center field. Flyer scored on the play.
Spanish Springs' offensive woes were exemplified in the sixth. Leadoff hitter Matt Mannens roped a line drive into left-center field that turned into a double. Unfortunately for the Cougars, the next three players to stand in the box, all struck out and Mannens never advanced off second.
Spanish Springs will look to be better, and salvage a split of the two-game series against Damonte Ranch, when it travels to South Reno for a game at DRHS Tuesday at 3:45 p.m.
"We have not played a clean game yet," Hofmann said. "It's not for a lack of trying. I like our guys. They're trying to get better. We'll need to pick it up and play a cleaner game Tuesday. I think if we can do that, and improve our hitting, we'll be in close games and give ourselves a chance."