Maybe some of the Cougars’ comeback magic rubbed off on the Raiders Saturday at SSHS.
Jason Stroberg’s leadoff home run in the top of the seventh lifted Reed to a 6-5 victory and a split in the two-game Northern 4A league series between the Sparks schools.
“It’s just big for us because we’re trying to get better and it’s just nice to see hard work pay off,” Reed baseball coach Ray Charles said. “I still think Spanish Springs is one of the better teams in the league. For us to beat them at the end of the season, it’s a plus for us. It gives us confidence that we can compete with the good squads in town. It’s a tremendous win for our program, so we’re very excited about it.”
Spanish Springs reliever Tim Epker struck out the side in the top of the seventh, but not before Stroberg took a 3-2 pitch deep for a solo shot. Stroberg’s frozen rope barely cleared the left-field fence down the line, but it got high enough to provide the go-ahead run.
Reed didn’t use its bullpen Saturday. Spencer Jones went the distance and got tougher as the game went on. Jones had to face Spanish Springs’ No. 2, 3 and 4 hitters in the bottom of the seventh and recorded a 1-2-3 inning to prevent a comeback from the home team. Jones ended the game with back-to-back strikeouts.
“I thought we had some opportunities early in the game to knock out their starting pitcher, and we didn‘t take advantage of that,” SSHS baseball coach Ben Hofmann said. “He just got stronger as the game went.”
Jones scattered six hits, walked one, hit a batter and struck out five for the win.
The game was a see-saw battle from the start.
The Raiders claimed a 2-0 lead after Brandon Autino’s opposite-field two-run home run in the top of the first.
Spanish Springs stormed back, posting a three spot in the bottom half of the inning.
Kendall Murphy drove in a run with a grounder through the infield and Malcolm Anderson’s two-run single back up the middle handed the hosts a 3-2 edge.
Beau Tittensor helped the Raiders knot the game at 3-3 in the top of the second. Tittensor led off the inning with a double to left field. A sacrifice bunt moved him over to third and a wild pitch allowed him to trot home for the equalizer.
Murphy’s one-out home run with the bases empty in the third put the Cougs back on top 4-3, but the home crowd had to watch the Blue and Gold tie the game back up in the fourth on Ryan Butler’s RBI fielder’s that was set up by two walks and a hit batsman by Spanish Springs starting pitcher Chase Kittilsen.
Reed only managed two hits off Kittilsen, but he walked five and hit two others in 3 1-3 innings of work.
The Raiders then regained the lead in the fifth frame. A.J. Silva led off by crushing a double that went off the tip of the glove of left fielder Matt Mannens while he was in pursuit of the deep flyball.
Tittensor hit a liner to right field, driving in Silva for a 5-4 Reed lead.
Spanish Springs left the game deadlocked at 5-5 through five innings. Kittilsen belted a triple to deep center field that didn’t quite have the distance to leave the park. After a strikeout, Epker got down a bunt, squeezing Kittilsen home. However, the Purple and Silver went down in order the final two innings.
“It’s almost been an expectation (to come back and win). When it doesn’t happen, I’m almost surprised,” Hofmann said. “The law of averages tend to take place in something like this. You can’t just continually add runs late and expect to win all the time. It’s nice, but it’s bound to happen.”
Tittensor and Murphy were the only players with two hits in the game for either team.
Reed (11-16, 6-12 in Northern 4A) concludes its regular season with home games against Reno Tuesday and Wednesday at 3:45 p.m.
Spanish Springs (20-6, 11-5 in Northern 4A) is on the road in its final league series, traveling to Wooster Tuesday and Wednesday.
Sparks 7-9, Truckee 0-13
The Railroaders ran their winning streak to 12 games by taking the opener of Saturday's doubleheader at Truckee before dropping the nightcap to split the day's action with the Wolverines.
Dennis Morelli tossed a one-hitter in the opener, striking out 10 and walking five in the 7-0 Sparks victory.
Morelli helped his cause by driving in two runs. Jared Longland went 2-for-4 in the win.
"We played well in the first game and really took it to them," Sparks baseball coach Greg Vasko said. "I think we just let our guard down in the second game."
Truckee blew out to an 11-2 advantage before Sparks began climbing back into contention.
Kirk and Keiffer Putman both went 2-for-2 for the Maroon and Gold, while Morelli was 2-for-4. Keiffer Putman had an RBI and Tyler Dresbach knocked in a pair.
Sparks (15-6) still stands in first place in the Mount Rose League and will head to South Tahoe Wednesday for a 4 p.m. first pitch in the opener of its final league series. The Railroaders host the Vikings Saturday in a twin bill.