While it looked like the baseball gods were doing everything they could to help the Cougs, the magic finally wore off Thursday evening in the final game of the series with Galena.
The Cougars, who had won four of their 11 wins in their final at-bat, had two chances to stay perfect this season in their final trips to the plate Thursday. However, Spanish Springs was saddled with a 7-6 defeat in extra innings, leading to a series split.
“We weren’t going to go undefeated. It was a great game. I had a ton of fun,” SSHS baseball coach Ben Hofmann said.
The Cougars had to play catch-up all game, something they’ve grown accustomed to so there was no panic.
Galena led 5-3 heading into the bottom of the sixth inning.
With one out, Garek Tauchen singled up the middle. Then No. 9 hitter Shane Lawson came up to the plate and belted a 2-1 pitch up into the air and let it carry over the short porch in right field for a game-tying home run.
Spanish Springs had a shot to go ahead but left runners on the corners.
Again, the Cougars could have capped the comeback in the bottom of the seventh.
With one runner on and two outs, Tauchen chopped a grounder that went through the Galena first baseman’s legs “Bill Buckner” style, putting runners on the corners.
The Grizzlies intentionally walked Lawson to set up a force play at any base. But a Galena coach visited the mound to talk defensive strategy. The visitors didn’t have any free visits left, so they were forced to take out relief pitcher Logan Sidener, who entered the game at the start of the seventh and had been effective.
Having to unexpectedly throw Austin Lugano onto the mound worked in Galena’s favor as the southpaw induced an inning-ending flyout.
Galena had the top of the order coming up to the plate in the top of the eighth. Spanish Springs reliever Chadd Little hit the leadoff man in the hand and then served up a no-doubter to Jeremy Rosenthall, whose two-run shot pushed the Grizz ahead 7-5.
Lugano came back out to the mound in the bottom of the eighth. He struck out No. 2 and 3 hitters Tanner Oates and Jake Bray.
Down to the final strike, Kendall Murphy singled up the middle, keeping Spanish Springs’ hopes alive.
Chase Kittilsen drew a one-out walk and Malcolm Anderson hit a bleeder that was perfectly placed halfway up the third-base line. Anderson beat out the play and knocked the ball free.
The first baseman was unable to locate the ball, so Murphy rumbled home. But Kittilsen was caught in a rundown between second and third. He dodged one tag attempt but could not dive back into second ahead of the throw, ending the game.
Galena got off to a 3-0 lead with a three-run fourth frame. Zack Parkinson had a two-run double and Cole Fenner drove in a run with a single.
Spanish Springs (11-1, 6-1 in Northern 4A) cut the deficit to 3-2 in the bottom half of the inning on RBI singles by Murphy and Anderson.
In the fifth inning, Daniel Ferguson homered for the Grizzlies and Oates doubled in a run for the Cougars, leaving the score 5-3.
Hofmann expects his team to bounce back from its first loss when it heads to Reno for an 11 a.m. contest Saturday.
“I think they will. This is a really good group of kids,” Hofmann said. “They’re very athletic. They’re baseball players. They’ve played a lot of baseball. We’ve got a good test on Saturday. Reno will be ready to play us. I’m sure it will be a great series.”