Reno West outscored South Tahoe, Fallon and North Valley by a 46-6 margin to reach the state championship game without playing a full seven-inning game.
So it was only suiting that Reno West got to face a team for the state crown it hadn’t played yet in the double-elimination tournament. That team just happened to be Sparks.
Sparks battled through the losers’ bracket to earn the right to challenge Reno West, but needed to beat Reno West in back-to-back games to claim a state championship and the right to represent Nevada in the Pacific Southwest Regional tournament in El Segundo, Calif.
While Sparks put up a fight early on and the game did go the distance, Reno West was still too tough and Sparks was the victim of a 10-2 defeat Monday night.
Reno West struck first with a pair of runs in the bottom of the second inning and never trailed. Carter Knedgen laced a ground ball single over the third-base bag to lead off the inning. He then swiped second base to move into scoring position for Nate Agliolo.
Agliolo hit a grounder up the middle, but Sparks shortstop Brandon Coleman made a diving stop behind second base, saving a run. It was only temporary though.
After Agliolo was picked off at first, John Weethee was hit by a pitch and stole second.
With two outs, a 1-2 pitch to Chris Haines went in the dirt and got away from catcher Kurt Klix. The wild pitch advanced both runners 90 feet and broke the scoreless tie.
Then Haines hit a slow roller to deep shortstop. His infield hit drove in Weethee for a 2-0 score.
Sparks cut the deficit in half in its half of the third inning.
Jared Weis reached base on an error when his grounder to short took a bad hop. He then proceeded to steal second and rumbled all the way home on Jake Weiss-Buffa’s line-drive single down the left-field line on a pitch at his eyes.
Reno West answered with a single run in the bottom of the third, increasing the gap back up to two runs.
With two outs, Knedgen was hit by a pitch. He stole second and was homeward bound on Agliolo’s single through the hole between shortstop and third base, making it a 3-1 ballgame.
It was a one-run game again following the top of the fourth after Sparks picked up its second unearned run off Reno West pitcher Denny Peters. Coleman got on base via a throwing error in the infield. He moved to second on a balk and a wild pitch advanced him to third. Klix dumped a single into shallow left field, driving in Coleman for a 3-2 score. Sparks had a chance to tie the game, but stranded the bases loaded in the fourth.
Peters pitched six innings of three-hit ball, while striking out four and walking two.
Reno West extended the gap to 5-2 in the fourth frame. John Muntean singled in Justin McKenzie, who had singled. Muntean later scored when a high throw to first was mishandled.
Reno West threatened to institute the 10-run mercy rule in an ugly sixth inning for Sparks.
Reno West was caught in two separate rundowns in the sixth inning, but Sparks didn’t get an out either time. In fact, Reno West even scored a run during both rundown situations, helping lead to a five-run rally.
Reno West scored on a wild pitch, Agliolo’s third RBI single of the game and an RBI single by Haines, who popped up but the ball landed between the pitcher and second baseman for an RBI single. That would have been the third out of the inning, and that’s also the play in which Reno West scored during a second rundown.
Reno West had the bases loaded and needed two runs to end the game early, but Sparks relief pitcher Eric Bashell induced an inning-ending flyout to left field.
Then Reno West brought in its southpaw. McKenzie pitched a 1-2-3 seventh to shut the door, ending the game with consecutive strikeouts.
Muntean and Haines both contributed two hits to the winning cause, in a game that featured 14 combined hits — all singles.
The regional tournament for the 15-year-old All-Stars begins July 28.