It would take an epic feat to pull off a repeat performance with host Washoe in the opposite dugout Sunday night at the South Valleys Sports Complex.
It didn’t take long for Washoe to prove it was no South Tahoe — the team Sparks beat 10-0 Saturday for a chance to play for the title.
However, the Centennials were up to the challenge and shocked the northern Nevada Little League world by downing perennial juggernaut Washoe, 6-2, in the final of the Hooligans tournament.
“I told all these kids, we visualized winning this,” Sparks Centennial Hooligans manager Pat Gilmore said. “I had a dream that I was going to run out on the field and they were all going to tackle me. What I dreamt came true. It was a tough ballgame. They scored first. We came back and scored a couple runs. In the sixth, we realized we’re this good.”
Sparks Centennial dodged a big bullet in the opening inning. Two hit batsmen sandwiched around a Michael Nicholas double to the gap and left the bases loaded with one out. But Sparks starting pitcher Jon Kimball escaped without damage and settled down for the remaining three innings he pitched.
In his four innings of work, Kimball only allowed a single run in the bottom of the third after Brandon Scheid doubled to the fence in left and scored on KC Peterson’s RBI single to shallow center, making it a 1-0 game.
Sparks answered right back though. Cameron Draper came off the bench and led off the fourth frame with a single. Joe Salter picked up the second of three hits in his 3-for-3 performance, putting runners on first and second with no outs.
After an Evan Wambolt bunt advanced the runners up a base, Kimball helped his cause and gave himself the pitching win by doubling both runs home. Kimball’s sinking liner got past the left fielder and the Centennials surged into a 2-1 lead.
Kimball got plenty of help from his defense all night, but no play was bigger than Wambolt’s grab in the bottom half of the fourth. Wambolt robbed a potential home run and then doubled off the runner at first, who did not tag.
“That was the key of the game. Evan Wambolt in right field literally reached over the fence and made the catch. He brought the ball down and the runner thought he dropped the ball and it was a home run,” Gilmore said. “He left the base and we doubled him up. Then he made another catch in the outfield at his shoelaces for a huge out on that one, too.”
Kameron Soubiea came on in relief for Sparks to start the fifth and pitched a 1-2-3 inning, striking out the last two batters he faced.
Then it was Sparks’ turn to add some insurance.
Washoe’s defense was far from solid throughout the game, but a pair of errors in the top of the sixth proved costly.
Salter crushed a shot that one-hopped the fence in right-center field for a leadoff double. Dylan Collins reached on a bunt single and Wambolt got on via an infield single, plating Salter from third. Back-to-back fielding errors in the infield allowed Collins and Wambolt to score.
Soubiea capped the four-run rally with an RBI base hit to shallow right field, increasing the lead to 6-1.
Washoe still had some fight left and benefited from some shaky Sparks defense in the bottom of the sixth.
Connor Wittman opened the inning with a single and Luke Whitlock pinch ran. Peterson hit a towering pop up in front of the mound, but no one ran under it, letting it fall to the ground. The same thing happened with the next Washoe batter. Luckily, the infield fly rule was in effect, although the runners still moved up a base on the automatic out.
Washoe picked up its final run on Jesse Kimbro’s RBI groundout to shortstop and then Soubiea induced a game-ending come backer that he took to first base himself, ending Sparks Centennial’s long streak of championship futility.
“Sparks Centennial hasn’t won a championship since 2005 in any version of All-Stars,” Gilmore said. “This class of Centennial kids is just a really good class. We look forward to doing more damage in the future.”
Collins and Soubiea both had a pair of hits in the victory.