Reno High’s Kellen Richards became that hero when he roped a walk-off single into the outfield with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning to propel his team to victory. His game-winning hit slapped the Spanish Springs baseball team with an 8-7 loss and its second straight defeat Saturday afternoon after it started the season 11-0.
The Huskies’ Grant Kukuk began the final inning by getting a single off Cougars reliever Jake Bray. Bray then made a critical mistake that enabled Kukuk to advance to third. This error would cost his team the game two batters later.
During Bray’s time on the mound, he kept an extremely close eye on first base and attempted numerous times to pick runners off. He attempted a pick-off when Kukuk was on first base but SSHS first-baseman Kendall Murphy neither expected nor saw the attempt. The ball soared past his head and deep into foul territory. Kukuk meanwhile, sprinted to third base while the Reno faithful cheered wildly.
Bray managed to retire the next two Husky batters before he met Richards. With his teammates pleading for a hit, Richards connected with a low pitch and sent it into the outfield where no Cougar could catch it. He sprinted to first-base with his hands in the air as Kukuk touched home-plate for the game-winning run.
The loss in extra innings spoiled a big day offensively for the Cougars. The team racked up 14 hits. Senior Tanner Oates had a good day as he went 3-for-5 at the plate with an RBI. Murphy also had a solid day with two hits, including a go-ahead two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning. Offense wasn’t the problem for the Cougars. It was all the little things as head baseball coach Ben Hofmann put it.
“We didn’t do some of the little things we needed to do,” he said. “We didn’t get a bunt down when we needed to. We got picked-off on a hit-and-run play, just things that were very painful. We’re not going to beat a good team if we throw the ball around like we did today. You can’t throw it around like that and expect to win baseball games.”
Spanish Springs got off to a fast start against the Huskies, contrary to what it usually does. Junior Shane Lawson put his team on the board first by driving in teammate and starting pitcher Malcolm Anderson with a single in the second inning.
Bray brought another run home in the third inning and junior Chase Kittilsen added two more runs in the same inning when he launched a ball over the left-field fence for a two-run home run. That raised the SSHS lead to 4-0.
Reno got all four of those runs back in the bottom of the third, which was highlighted by a two-run triple by senior Anthony Hascheff, who slugged a ball into deep center-field.
RHS junior Zach Paquette scored to give his team a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the fourth inning after the Cougars committed an error, overthrowing first base.
Reno's Alex Graybar tacked on another run with his sacrifice fly off SSHS reliever Tim Epker in the bottom of the fifth, making the score 6-4.
Oates brought the Cougars to within one with a sacrifice fly in the sixth. Murphy followed with his home run to put SSHS on top 7-6.
Hascheff tied the game for the Huskies with an RBI single in the sixth with Bray on the mound for the Cougars.
Despite defeat, Hofmann is confident in his team’s abilities and saw promise with the offense.
“I was pleased,” he said. “We've got some guys who are swinging it well. We scored seven runs and we were right there. It was a great game from an offensive standpoint. But we’ll bounce back from this. We have a good weekend so we’ll relax and rest up and come back Monday ready to go.”
Spanish Springs will host Reno on Tuesday in a rematch. The first pitch is scheduled for 3:45 p.m.