Just as the Mustangs finally had a sign of optimism Tuesday afternoon, Audenried erased any remaining hope. Right on the threshold of scoring its first run and possibly tying the game, or more, Damonte sent its No. 3 and No. 4 batters to the plate. And then Audenried sat them down. From there Spanish Springs and Audenried rolled to a complete game shutout and a 5-0 Division I North win.
“Nikk was just the best guy on the mound today,” Spanish Springs coach Ben Hofmann said. “He went out there and put the ball in good spots and kept their guys off balance.
“In the sixth I was naturally concerned because they’re a good ball club and we were only up two and they had two on, so and we had a guy up just in case, but Nikk’s pitch count was relatively low and I really felt confident that he was our best guy today on the mound. What we love about Nikk is he is ultra-competitive. He wants to compete whether it’s ping-pong or racing to the fence and back in warm-ups. He wants to win in everything he does and it shows when he gets on the mound. He gets up there and he just wants to compete and he has such a tough mental attitude that it’s very impressive and it can be contagious for our guys.”
After Audenried fanned the final two batters of the inning and worked his way out of the jam, which was the only time a Mustang base runner advanced beyond second base in the game, the Cougars added some insurance with their bats in the top of the seventh.
Shannon Kelly started things off in the top half of the frame by legging out an infield single. A double by Matt Mannens then moved Kelly to third with a double down the left-field line before a walk to Kenny Semenko loaded the bases. Vinny Agliolo then stepped into the batter’s box and ripped a 2-1 offering to the left-field fence for a double that scored Kelly and Mannens. Chase Hauder followed with an RBI single to cap the three-run inning and leave the Cougars with a five-run cushion.
“The seventh was big. With the wind blowing out to left like it was, I didn’t feel safe with a two-run lead. Even though Nikk was dealing, anything can happen, so that was big,” Hofmann said. “Vinny had a great at-bat. Bases loaded, he could have hit into a double play that would have sent them to the plate with some energy and then you never know at that point. Instead he hits a double and brings home two. I really think that was the final nail.”
With a 5-0 lead, Audenried closed the door on his complete game effort as strongly as he started the contest, retiring the side in order. Audenried gave up just two hits in the complete game shutout, tossing eight strikeouts and walking one.
After neither side was able to score through two innings, Spanish Springs (6-3, 2-2) tallied the game’s first run in the top of the third.
A pair of singles by Mannens and Semenko started the inning before a double steal moved both into scoring position. Agliolo then sent a shot back up the middle to plate Mannens and give SSHS a 1-0 advantage. A double play abruptly ended the Spanish Springs’ threat.
In the top of the fourth, Mannens stepped to the dish and belted a solo home run over the left-field fence to push the lead to 2-0.
On the day, Mannens led the way with a 4-for-4 effort, including the homer and a double with three runs scored. Agliolo was 2-for-4 with a double and three RBI, while Hunter Pinto was also 2-for-4 with a pair of singles.
Spanish Springs will now host Reno on Thursday at 3:45 p.m.