“It was a good battle,” Sparks Centennial coach Mike Dicus said. “None of the kids gave up on themselves. They came out swinging the bats and running the bases aggressively and playing defense. Guys were just making plays all around.”
Playing in the first round of the championship bracket, the SC Renegades found themselves looking at elimination down 6-3 after three innings of play.
The Renegades’ fate changed in their favor soon after the start of the fourth inning.
Following a strikeout to open the top of the fourth, Sparks Centennial loaded the bases with a walk and pair of bunt singles. South Tahoe appeared to be on its way to escaping from the trouble with an ensuing strikeout that left the SC Renegades with just one out left to do damage with. That remaining out proved costly.
With the bases still full, Nick Martin stepped into the batters box and delivered a rocket over the left fielder’s head, clearing the base paths to tie the game at 6-6. With Martin standing on third base,Zack Root brought him home with a double down the third-base line to hand the SC Renegades a 7-6 edge.
A pitching change did little to stop the momentum for Sparks Centennial. A pair of walks again loaded the bases to set up the SC Renegades, but this time around they did their damage with their feet rather than their bats. Taking advantage of a pair of South Tahoe mistakes, Sparks added two more runs to its lead as Root took home on a passed ball and Carson Isip touched the plate on an overthrow back to the pitcher, leaving the SC Renegades in front 9-6.
“We were telling them not to give up,” Dicus said about the message to his team after being down 6-3. “We reminded them that the game wasn’t over by any means. I told them before that South Tahoe was going to come to play and they did. Our guys fought and ran the bases aggressively and I think that’s what made the difference. We put the ball in play and made the defense make plays.”
South Tahoe managed to push a run home in the bottom of the fourth, but the two-run 9-7 deficit would be the closest it would get the remainder of the game.
Martin went to the dish in the top of the fifth and again made the opponents pay. With teammates Brayden Wakefield and Kameron Stoker on base after being walked, Martin sent a two-RBI triple down the left-field line to open the SC Renegades lead to 11-7. Root then brought Martin home with a single back up the middle, resulting in the final score of 12-7.
From the mound, Martin relieved starting pitcher Andrew Burmer in the bottom of the fifth frame and retired the side with three strikeouts. Martin then forced a grounout and strikeout in the bottom of the sixth before handing the ball over to Isip who induced a groundout to end the game.
“Our pitching was solid,” Dicus said. “That’s all you can say about it, is that it was solid. And behind them they had guys in the defense picking them up. That was huge.”
Sparks Centennial used two walks and two singles, along with some help from South Tahoe, to grab a 3-0 lead to start the game in the top of the first inning before South Tahoe tied the game with a trio of its own runs in the bottom of the second.
The victory now earns the SC Renegades a contest against Reno National today at 4 p.m. on Field 1 of the South Valleys Sports Complex with a trip to the championship game on the line.
“They beat us pretty good the last time we played them so hopefully we can perform better than that last time,” Dicus said. “We’ll just tell them that if they play the same game that they did today they’re going to be just fine. They just need to hit the ball and run the bases hard. If we can do that along with making good plays on defense and throwing strikes, we should be in good shape.”