With their first trip to the dish, the Railroaders gave themselves a comfortable cushion as they jumped on the Wolverines for a trio of runs.
Austin Garrick took a leadoff walk to get things started for Sparks. That was followed by a single off the bat of Kieffer Putman. A walk to Jared Longland then loaded the bases, setting the table for Dustin Alexander. The senior didn’t let the chance go to waste, sending a high-bouncing chopper over Truckee’s third baseman to plate the first two runs of the contest. With runners on the corners, Sparks pulled off a successful double steal to grab a 3-0 edge after one inning of play.
“We had to take advantage of that situation and we did,” Sparks coach Greg Vasko said. “Getting runs against a good quality team is hard to come by. So we had to take advantage of that spot and Dustin certainly did.”
Truckee answered in the top of the third, plating a pair to cut the deficit to 3-2.
Andy McKechnie started the inning off with a triple. Back-to-back free passes left the bases full for the Wolverines with two away. Erik Holmer then delivered for the California school with a single back up the middle to make it a one-run game.
That margin stayed until midway through the fifth when the Maroon and Gold pushed home another pair in the bottom half of the frame.
Consecutive singles by Putman and Longland gave Sparks something to work with. After a passed ball moved the baserunners into scoring position, Collin Ray laced a two-bagger down the right field line for two RBI and a 5-2 advantage.
“That was a big play,” Vasko said of Ray’s double. “That definitely helped us out. It was just 3-2 at that point so we needed a little more insurance and that was just a clutch hit by him.”
In the top of the sixth, Truckee put together its most promising comeback attempt, but with runners on the corners and the tying run at the plate with two outs, Putman induced a groundout to end the threat. The senior righty then closed the door in the seventh, capping off his complete-game win. Putman stuck out five while giving up eight hits.
“He did a great job,” Vasko said. “He hit his locations like he was supposed to and he played with a lot of emotion. He kept them off balance and did what he needed to do to win.”
Sparks (13-6, 10-6) will finish off its series against the Wolverines with a doubleheader at Truckee Saturday. Game 1 is slated to start at 11 a.m.
Not to be outdone by their counterparts, the Lady Railroaders also celebrated their Senior Day, but rather than commemorating the day with one victory, the softball squad walked away with two wins.
Hosting Truckee for a doubleheader, the Sparks bats were active early and often as the Railroaders pushed across 29 runs in the twin-bill sweep, 13-3 and 16-0. Both games ended in the fifth inning due to the 10-run mercy rule.
"It took us a while to get started," Sparks coach Frank Avilla said. "The girls were a little antsy and kind of overplaying some stuff, but they showed a lot of discipline after that. They found their discipline and were patient at the plate and just did their thing. They did real well. They took what the pitcher gave them and went with it."
Jocelyn Vasquez went the distance in both contests, earning complete-game victories with 10 innings of work.
Sparks (13-11, 10-7), winners of six of its last seven, will look for a series sweep of the Wolverines in its season finale Saturday. First pitch is set for 9 a.m.
"They just have to keep believing in themselves and having that confidence," Avilla said. "We were supposed to have an off year this year and these girls took it upon themselves to learn the game and play. Now it's just about them believing in themselves. It's the first time in a long time we're going to have a winning season and that says a lot about this group of girls. The future looks good."