Sparks Centennial earned a berth in Friday's championship game thanks to a 10-5 triumph over Reno National Tuesday night. The Centennial all-stars will play either Reno National or Washoe in Friday's title tilt scheduled for 8 p.m.
The Sparks team, which is the reigning district champion, would need to be beaten twice to miss out on repeating as district champions.
"We're definitely in the driver's seat," said Sparks Centennial coach Ray Charles, who has also coached softball and baseball at Reed High School in east Sparks. "If you pick a scenario, this is the one you want to be in. But in all the years I've coached, you know, just because you're in the driver's seat, you can't take it easy. You still have to hit. We definitely have our work cut out for us. There's still work to be done."
Sparks broke open a 3-3 contest in the bottom of the fourth frame. The local club posted a trio of runs in the fourth and added four more in the fifth to account for a string of seven straight scores. Deadlocked at threes, the Sparks Centennial offense went to work in the bottom of the fourth. Christian Carlson and Dylan Husted singled setting the stage for Rylan Charles, who blasted a three-run homer and forged Sparks ahead 6-3.
Sparks Centennial went right back to work in the fifth. Casey Burfield laced a leadoff single. After a pair of strikeouts, it looked like the Sparks offense might stall, but that proved not to be the case. Carlson ripped an RBI single and Husted followed with a walk. Next, Rylan Charles rapped out a run-scoring single and Alex Padilla followed with a two-run single to cap the four-run rally.
"We did have 15 hits and 10 runs. That's a good total," Coach Charles said. "Sometimes you can get a bunch of hits but that does not equal a lot of runs. We put some hits together and had some kids come through with big hits when we had runners in scoring position. That was nice."
Reno National did tack on two runs in the top of inning six, the final frame, but it proved too little too late. Reno National took the early edge when Lane Oliphant mashed a two-run homer in the top of the first frame. That's as good as it got for the designated visitors. Sparks Centennial responded with two runs of its own in the bottom of the first and never trailed again.
Husted started the Centennial offense in the first with a walk. He scored soon after on an RBI single by Rylan Charles. After a walk to Padilla, Rylan Charles came plateward on a JT Skiver double, knotting the postseason affair at 2-2. Sparks Centennial grabbed a 3-2 edge with a single run in the third. Padilla reached on a single and moved up on a fielder's choice. He crossed the plate when Seth McGrath singled.
Reno National tied the game at 3-3 with a run in the top of the fourth, setting the stage for the Centennials' late game heroics. Burfield worked the first five innings on the hill for Sparks, earning the pitching victory. He gave up three runs and scattered five hits while striking out three and walking two.
"Casey started off a little shaky, but then he started throwing more strikes and really pounded the strike zone," Charles said. "We had a couple breakdowns, but overall, we played pretty good defense behind him. Casey kept us in the game and then we were able to stretch the lead late which was nice."
Padilla finished with three hits for Sparks while Husted, Carslon, Skiberg and Rylan Charles all knocked out two hits en route to victory.