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Spanish Springs baseball rallies late to surprise Galena
by Dan Eckles
Mar 29, 2011 | 850 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
RENO — If Spanish Springs baseball coach Ben Hofmann had hair, it would all be gray. As it is, the SSHS skipper has a shaved head. So the loss or discoloration of hair from an increased stress level that comes from watching his team compete is not really anything he has to worry about.

Spanish Springs stayed perfect on the young season, improving to 11-0 overall and 6-0 in league play thanks to another come-from-behind victory Tuesday afternoon.

The Cougars hit a trio of home runs and scored six runs in the seventh inning to steal a 12-8 Northern 4A league win at Galena. The comeback effort is the local school's fourth win in its final at-bat in six league games this spring.

"If this is the team we're going to be and this is what we're doing, then I'm in," said first-year Spanish Springs head coach Ben Hofmann, who had been a long-time Cougars assistant. "We're not going to panic. We're going to take good at-bats throughout the day and make something happen. It’s better than the alternative.

"Everybody's had those teams in the past, we have. Those teams that when they get down kind of expect to lose. That's not us. Galena is a good team. To come back on them means a lot."

Trailing 8-6 entering the top of the seventh inning, Cougars' No. 9 hitter Shane Lawson walloped a solo homer to initiate a big inning.

That ended the day for Galena's ace left-hander Jace Puckett, who was tabbed for seven runs, despite scattering five hits. He struck out eight and walked five. Unfortunately for Galena its bullpen could not provide much relief.

Tim Epker followed for Spanish Springs and struck out but reached safely on a miscue by the Galena catcher when he dropped the third strike. Next, Tanner Oates launched a two-run dinger that forged the Cougars' on top 9-8.

Spanish Springs was not done. Jake Bray and Kendall Murphy singled. Chase Kittilsen then proceeded to blast a three-run bomb, his second round tripper of the day, capping the six-run outburst.

Spanish Springs did not score again in the frame but had scored the six runs with just six hitters going to the plate.

Bray did the rest. Spanish Springs' hard-throwing closer set down Galena with a scoreless seventh. Bray tossed two scoreless innings to collect the win. He gave up two hits and a walk while recording five of his six outs via the whiff.

Oates got the starting nod for Spanish Springs. He was far from stellar but did enough on the hill to give the Cougars a chance in the end. Oates did not get a decision. He worked five innings, limiting Galena to five hits although all eight GHS runs were charged to him.

"We've told our starting pitchers, 'just keep us in the game. Give us a chance and limit the damage,'" Hofmann said. "Tanner gave up three runs twice, but he worked out of some jams and gave us a chance. We've told our guys try to avoid that five- or six-run inning that dooms you. We've got a strong bullpen. We can score some runs late. Just get back in the dugout and give us a chance."

Spanish Springs helped its cause with a three-run sixth inning. The local school trailed 8-3 when it came up in the sixth, but started its comeback.

Bray and Murphy singled while Kittilsen walked to load the bases. A wild pitch scored Bray and moved the other baserunners up 90 feet. Malcolm Anderson had an RBI groundout to score Murphy and Kyle Clark lifted a sacrifice fly to plate a pinch runner.

"Shane Lawson hitting that home run in the seventh against Puckett was the key to that rally," Hofmann said. "He's our No. 9 hitter, not a guy we expect to hit a ball out of the ballpark. He ran into one and that got everybody going.

"We also got the three runs in the sixth. Those were not typical of how we usually score. We manufactured those runs, scored them in ways we don't always get runs. That at least gave us a chance in the seventh."

Galena started the contest in fine fashion. Its clean-up hitter, Jeremy Rosenthal, ripped a two-run home run in the first for an early 2-0 Grizzlies lead.

Kittilsen hit a solo homer in the SSHS second, trimming the Grizz lead to 2-1. Spanish Springs went on top 3-2 when Bray walked in the third and trotted home thanks a Kendall Murphy two-run homer.

That lead was short-lived for Spanish Springs as Galena responded with three runs of its own in the bottom of the third. The south Reno school tacked on three more in the fifth, accounting for its 8-3 advantage.

Spanish Springs will make up a game today at North Valleys at 3:45 p.m. The contest was postponed last week due to the inclement wet weather.
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