The backend of the doubleheader saw the Railroaders jump out to an early 2-0 lead in its first at-bats of the game. With two outs and runners on second and first, Sparks starting pitcher Jared Longland roped a triple down the right-field line, plating two runs.
North Tahoe wasted no time countering, matching the Railroaders with two runs of its own in the bottom half of the first. Sparks did not help its own cause, aiding the Lakers. A single and an error put a pair of runners into scoring position for the home team before a single from junior Baird Bishop pushed one run across the plate. An intentional walk loaded the bases, allowing junior Colin Spencer to score on a wild pitch, tying the game at 2-2.
The next two innings passed without either team producing much offense until the Maroon and Gold resumed its scoring in the top half of the fourth frame.
With two outs down, senior James McCarty got the Railroaders going with a ground-rule double to center field. Senior David Tallman then stepped into the batter’s box and delivered an RBI single back up the middle, putting the visitors back ahead 3-2.
North Tahoe again responded with its next turn at the dish. With two outs in the inning, the Lakers struck when freshman Mitchel Myers advanced home on a wayward throw into the outfield on a pickoff attempt at second, knotting the game up at 3-3.
Sparks finally gave itself some breathing room in the top of the fifth, with some help from the Lakers.
A fielder’s choice allowed senior Brandon Harris to reach base safely before Harris advanced to third on a steal and a wild pitch. An intentional walk to senior L.B. Rose put runners on the corners but Harris quickly came home on a wild pitch, breaking the tie and bringing the score to 4-3. Another passed ball sent Rose to third base, setting up junior Casey Carter for an RBI single back up the middle. Two balls in the dirt sent Carter to third before McCarty pushed Carter all the way around the sacs with a single into center field to leave the scoreboard reading 6-3 in favor of the Railroaders.
The Lakers tallied a run in the bottom of the fifth to cut the deficit to 6-4, but Sparks added two insurance runs in the top of the sixth frame. Senior Keiffer Putman started the rally with a single and rounded to second base on a bad throw back into the infield. Harris then attempted a sacrifice bunt, but an error on the throw to first put him on base and plated Putman. Stealing a pair of bases, Harris waited 90 feet away from home before Rose grounded out to push him the rest of the way for the final 8-4 tally.
“Jared pitched a great game,” Sparks coach Greg Vasko said. “Our pitchers are putting some good performances in. At the beginning of the game we made a couple key errors that could have cost us but we hit the ball well. We played small ball a little bit and got the runs in.”
Longland went the distance for the Railroaders on the bump, pitching seven innings while giving up six hits and three walks and striking out nine en route to the win.
In the first matchup, the Railroaders doomed themselves with a game full of sloppy play.
“They’re a good team,” Vasko said. “Their pitcher pitched a really good game, but with the errors that we had and the runs we gave up, you can’t win ball games.”
Sparks scored a run in each of its turns at the dish in the second, third and fourth innings on its way to holding a 3-1 lead at the end of five frames. A triple from Rose followed by a double off the bat of Longland plated the first run, while a fielder’s choice from Harris scored sophomore Brandon Friedman and an error allowed Tallman to touch home. Six outs away from the victory, the Railroaders watched their lead dissolve behind a cloud of blunders.
A walk started the inning off for the Lakers, setting the stage for Spencer who hit an inside-the-park home run after an error in the outfield and an error on the relay handed North Tahoe the pair of runs.
Now tied at 3-3, the hosts looked to take the lead with a runner on second and two outs. An error on a grounder to short plated the go ahead run for the Lakers before a single pushed another run home the 5-3 North Tahoe advantage. The Railroaders were unable to rally in the seventh inning, going down in order. The mistake-filled inning left Vasko baffled.
“I don’t know what happened out there,” Vasko said. “I just don’t know. I just know we have to work on it, and we will come practice time.”
Putman pitched the entirety of the game for Sparks. Despite striking out nine and walking none, Putman was still saddled with the loss behind six Railroaders’ errors.
“Keiffer was solid on the mound,” Vasko said. “We just didn’t give him any support. I mean any other game you have nine strikeouts and no walks, any other time that’s a ‘W.’”
Sparks (10-4, 6-1 Mount Rose League) will take Easter break off before returning to play on the road against MRL foe South Tahoe in a doubleheader on Saturday. Vasko said his team will look to shore up its mistakes before resuming league play.
“We have to do a better job of making the routine plays. We don’t need to anything spectacular. We just have to make the routine plays. If we take care of that, we should be okay.”
Looking to snap a five-game losing streak and get back in the win column, the Sparks softball team did so in impressive fashion on Saturday afternoon, sweeping Mount Rose League opponent North Tahoe with a pair of wins, 21-8 and 28-14 respectively in the league doubleheader.
While the Lakers’ pitching aided Sparks with some mistakes, the Railroaders made sure to capitalize on their opportunities.
“I’m not going to lie, their pitching struggled a bit today, but they didn’t walk runs across the plate,” Sparks coach Frank Avilla said. “We wouldn’t let them walk us. We stayed aggressive. It was a good day at the plate. We took what they gave us. When we got runners in scoring position, our girls were patient and very disciplined. There was a lot of focus today and a lot of good play. They played the game the way it’s meant to be played today.”
Every Railroader reached base on a hit, including the reserves and junior Riely Regas highlighted the offensive display with a home run in the second game.
Freshman pitcher Jocelyn Vasquez went the distance in the circle for the Railroaders in both games, leading the way to the victories with six strikeouts in the first contest and eight in the second.
“Jocelyn showed her maturity,” Avilla said. “Every day she’s stepping up more and more. As a freshman, you get pressure and she’s learning how to deal with that pressure in game situations. She’s learning how not to let a team affect her or mistakes affect her. She’s staying calm. She’s doing really well.”
Sparks (4-10, 3-4 MRL) will look to keep its winning ways alive when it visits South Tahoe on Saturday for a twin bill.
“This puts us right back in the thick of things,” Avilla said. “They’re in the driver’s seat. Truckee and South Tahoe are ahead of us and that’s our league right now. We’re yet to play either of them so we control our destiny. I wouldn’t want it any other way. These wins should be a real positive and show them that they can play with anybody. If these two wins don’t give them confidence, I don’t know what will. They played the game the proper way and when you do that, anything good can happen.”