While the score may suggest otherwise, the win did not come easily for Centennial. Through four innings of play the contest was a dead-heat, but SC ended any question of who the championship belonged to.
Alex Padilla led the top of the fifth frame off by reaching base safely on a Reno National error. A sacrifice bunt and fielder’s choice moved Padilla to third base before Benat Vanhoose reached base on walk to put runners on the corners with two out. Zack Means then dug into the batter’s box and hit a hard grounder that the National infield mishandled, plating Padilla for a 7-6 Sparks lead. Runners again waited on the corner bags and this time Christian Carlson did damage with a bunt single that the RN 10s had no play on, allowing Vanhoose to score. A passed ball put both runners in scoring position, setting up Dylan Husted to drive a bases-clearing shot to the left-field fence, giving Centennial a 10-6 advantage that it would never relinquish.
“I’ve been telling them from the beginning that it is one pitch, one inning at a time,” Sparks Centennial coach Brent Husted said. “You never know what is going to happen in these games. We went up early then all of a sudden they came back. They got a little discouraged, but I kept telling them that they had to keep plugging away and keep working hard.
“This is just such a scrappy team. They can play. Everyone just looks at them and says ‘Look at how small these guys are,’ but they know how to play. They’ll definitely battle.”
The SC 10s starting pitcher Rylan Charles made quick work of his opponents in the bottom of the fifth with a 1-2-3 inning, putting the Centennial squad three outs away from securing the title. Before taking the field in the final inning though, SC had its turn at the dish and made sure to capitalize with its opportunity to tack on some insurance runs.
Centennial again placed runners on the corners in the top of the sixth frame and again hurt Reno National with a two-out rally.
Stepping to the plate, Vanhoose roped a 2-RBI single to the left-field fence to push the SC lead to 12-6. An error then allowed Means to reach base safely and thus kept the inning alive for Carlson to get another hack at the dish. Carlson delivered, blooping a single into left field that combined with a few National throwing errors allowed both runners to score and increase the advantage to 14-6. Dylan Husted also got in on the action as he hit a high fly ball to left field that was lost in the sun and fell to the ground, plating Carlson for the final tally of 15-6.
After Charles recorded the first out of the bottom of the sixth and was taken out due to pitch count, Casey Burfield came on in relief and finished the championship performance off for Centennial. With a runner on first, Burfield got the next batter to ground out to the second baseman, resulting in a tag-out, throw-out double play to complete the game.
“For me it is awesome,” Brent Husted said of winning the championship. “I played college ball here and played professionally and to see these little guys work so hard and achieve this, it’s just awesome.”
To start the game, both offenses put their bats to work with a high-scoring first inning.
Following a walk to Carlson and a double by Dylan Husted, Charles blasted a ball to deep right-center field for a three-run shot that gave the SC 10s an early 3-0 edge. A pair of errors with a single sandwiched in between loaded the bases for Centennial before a walk to Ryan Thackaberry allowed a pinch-running Zack Means to touch home for a 4-0 SC advantage.
Reno National fought right back initially, nullifying the Centennial top half with a five-spot of its own in the bottom of the first frame.
With Lane Oliphant and Skylar Hales standing on third and second base respectively, Coleman Schmidt sent a grounder to third, resulting in a play at the plate with Oliphant sliding safely under the tag to bring the score to 4-1. An ensuing single to center field from Colby Crisp plated another pair for National, cutting the deficit to 4-3. The RN 10s then tied the game on an RBI single by Nico Brunelli before National took the lead for itself when Jack Zeltzer scored on a passed ball to hand RN a 5-4 advantage.
Reno National added another run in the bottom of the second on a single up the middle by Schmidt that plated Oliphant for a 6-4 lead. Sparks Centennial answered back in the top of third. Burfield dropped a bloop single between the National center fielder and second baseman to score Padilla before Seth McGrath hit a sac fly to tie the game at 6-6, thus setting the stage for the Centennial victory.
Sparks Centennial will now travel to Carlin for the Nevada State Little League Tournament where it will represent District 1. The tournament will feature four teams in a double-elimination bracket and is set to begin July 20.
“I’ll let them relax for a couple of days and then we’ll get back at it,” Brent Husted said about preparing for state. “I want to see the same kind of hustle and the same kind of determination. I want our pitchers on the mound to pound the strike zone and trust the kids behind them to make plays. Most of all, I want them to just have fun. These kids have been around each other for a little while and I had a lot of them last year and now you can tell they’re really gelling together. Hopefully, we see the same thing from them and they keep battling.”
•While the 10-year-olds from Sparks Centennial were celebrating on Friday, the same could not be said for the 12-year-old crew.
Facing off against the Reno American All-Stars in the losers’ bracket of the 12-year-old division, the SC 12s never managed to get within two runs of the lead, mercifully dropping the contest 15-5.
Reno American jumped out to an early lead in the top of the first inning when Jaydon Gold sent a single to center field that allowed teammates Matt Farman and JB Liessmann to score for a 2-0 edge. American tacked on another run in the top frame of the second on an RBI-single off the bat of Brandon Thomas that plated Alec Crosby to put the RA 12s up 3-0. The advantage was extended to 4-0 in the top of the third as American utilized a double-steal with runners on the corners to send Liessmann home.
Through the first three innings Sparks Centennial was able to get just one runner on the base paths. In the bottom of the fourth things seemed to be changing for the SC 12s as a pair of singles and an error left the bases full with no outs. After a fielder’s choice at home, a walk to Donte Smith allowed Joey Brown to touch home for the first SC run. Nico Howe then drove in a run with a shot past the shortstop, cutting the deficit in half, down to 4-2.
That would be the closest Centennial could get to the lead as Reno American would post four runs in the top of the fifth. Two passed balls and a hit batter, all with the bases loaded, did most of the damage. SC tried to climb back yet again in the bottom of the fifth on an RBI double and single from Brandon Biggs and Josiah Schmidt respectively, along with a score on a passed ball, which left the scoreboard reading 8-5. However, a seven-spot in the top of the sixth from the American 12s put any thoughts of a comeback victory to rest for Centennial.
The second loss in as many days drops the SC 12s into the consolation bracket where it will face the winner of the squads representing Truckee and North Valleys. That game is set for 8 p.m. today.