Not only was it the last regular season game for the seven seniors on the team, but Sparks locked up the top seed in the Mount Rose League by beating South Tahoe 17-2 and 15-11. The team will host a playoff game against Lowry next weekend.
After missing the playoffs last season, head coach Greg Vasko was proud of the work his team put in over the summer in order to make the postseason.
“To go from last place last year to first place this year, it wasn’t just me,” said Vasko. “My assistant coaches helped out. The seniors on this team picked it up and played summer ball together. The maturity of all those guys working together and making a commitment early in the summer meant a lot. They worked hard.”
“I love it,” said senior Dennis Morelli. “I’m so glad we’re in it this year, it’s my senior year. I hated last year and I never want that feeling (of missing the postseason) again.”
It was a big day for three Sparks batters in particular. Seniors Morelli, Martin Jordan, and Tyler Dresbach combined to blast four home runs. Morelli skied two in one inning in the first game of the day’s doubleheader and finished with nine RBIs on the day.
The Railroader bats came alive in the fourth inning of the day’s opening game to the tune of eight runs. Morelli began the inning by driving a solo shot over the center-field fence for his team’s tenth run of the game.
Senior Kirk Putman singled, stole second, and advanced to third on an error and later scored on a wild pitch to raise the score to 11-2.
Jordan brought Dresbach home with a deep center-field double. Senior Leonel Abundis and junior Brandon Harris each hit an RBI single to bring in another two runs before Morelli concluded the bottom of the fourth by smashing a three-run home run over the center-field wall, his second of the inning. The score at that point had bloated to 17-2.
Morelli also pitched during the first game and needed only five innings to strike out seven and walk two Vikings. “Dennis was outstanding,” Vasko said. “He hit well, he pitched well, he played great.”
Dresbach’s three-run shot in the bottom of the first inning was a key reason why the team got off to a quick 5-0 lead. He went a perfect 3-for-3 in the game.
The day’s concluding game was much more dramatic.
The Vikings were down 15-6 in the top of the sixth inning. They tacked on five runs after a scuffle between a South Tahoe parent and a Railroader supporter halted the game. The two were ejected from the stands during the tense inning that saw a large 9-run Sparks lead dwindle down to only four.
South Tahoe got itself on the board first after senior Rigel Garmin safely touched home plate as a result of an overthrown Sparks third baseman.
The Railroaders didn’t sulk. Rather, they exploded for eight opening-inning runs including Jordan’s two-run home run over the center-field fence. Morelli squeaked a double past the third baseman to score the first two runs of the game.
Sophomore Jared Longland brought in the fifth run with a shallow single and Abundis scored two more with a deep triple. That was his second hit of the inning. Harris hit another RBI triple to end the inning.
Morelli slapped a triple in the third inning to bring in Abundis, who was hit by a pitch, and Harris, who was walked. The two runs raised the score to 10-4.
Another two runs were forced in when Longland and Morelli were both walked with the bases loaded in the bottom of the fourth inning. Abundis sacrificed himself to score the third run of the inning, Jordan singled for the 14th run and Harris was brought home thanks to a wild pitch. Sparks was up 15-4 at the end of four.
With the mercy rule looming, the Vikings narrowly escaped it after senior Jamie Yelles hit a two-run home run to cut the lead to nine.
South Tahoe clawed to within 15-11 in the sixth inning but couldn’t score any more runs in the top of the seventh.
“The kids came mentally ready,” said Vasko. “We had an approach to come and hit and the kids hit the ball. We were ready.”
With the two wins, the Railroaders ended the season with a 17-7 overall record and a 10-2 league mark.
South Tahoe 5-13, Sparks 0-8
The Railroaders tried to play the role of spoiler, but could not keep the Vikings from earning the top seed for the playoffs as the California school swept the 3A Mount Rose League doubleheader at Sparks Saturday.
The Maroon and Gold played small ball and got some timely hits in order to grab a 4-3 lead through three innings of the second game of the doubleheader.
However, South Tahoe stormed back with 10 unanswered runs.
Sparks chipped away with four runs in the bottom of the seventh, but could get no closer than the final 13-8 margin.
Michelle Cardenas and Krystal Parker both had two hits in the losing cause. Parker drove in two runs.
Sparks finished the season winless on the field.
“I wish we would have done better this year,” Sparks softball coach Frank Avilla said. “It took them a little longer to learn the game than I anticipated, so I’m a little disappointed in that. We did get better each and every game. We competed.”