Sparks dropped a 13-3, six-inning contest at home to North Valleys Wednesday. It marked the third consecutive day Sparks, a 3A North school, had suffered a mercy-rule defeat at the hands of a 4A foe.
“I’m hoping we’re humbled by the situation and it gives us an incentive to try harder,” Sparks coach Greg Vasko said. “Seeing some of the pitching we have the past few days should be helpful in the long run.”
North Valleys wasted no time grabbing the momentum Wednesday. Gage Clark ripped an RBI double to help the Panthers to a 2-0 lead after the top half of the first. Then, Mason Blake, Clark, Tyler Molder and Mike Romero all singled and scored to help the guests push across five runs in the second inning en route to taking a 7-0 advantage.
North Valleys tacked on another run in the top of inning three — thanks to a Kyle Bennett solo homer — for an 8-0 lead. Still, Sparks tried to hang around.
The Railroaders looked like they might stay in contention by posting a trio of runs in their half of the third. Christian Cordoba and Ivan Trujillo were issued free passes to initiate the Sparks rally. Both circled the sacks after a Joe Puccinelli two-run double. Puccinelli came plateward after stealing third and racing home on a wild pitch.
The SHS outburst made the score 8-3, but that’s as good as it got for the hosts. Puccinelli’s double was the lone hit Sparks could muster on the day. Conversely, North Valleys battered Sparks pitching for 14 hits in the one-sided affair.
Although his numbers weren’t stellar, Mike Mendoza picked up the pitching win for North Valleys. He worked four innings, allowing just the one hit. He struck out one and walked four. Tyler Parks came on in the fifth for the Panthers and worked two scoreless, hitless innings. He did not give up a walk and struck out three in the relief stint.
“Today, we had just the one hit, but we were smacking the baseball right at people,” Vasko said. “We hit line drives, but they made some nice plays defensively.
“We have to refocus. We definitely don’t have to worry about playing five games in five days again. We don’t have that kind of pitching depth. That was tough.”
The Panthers (4-13) put the game away with a three-run fourth and two-run sixth. Bennett bashed his second dinger of the day, a two-run shot to highlight the NVHS fourth.
“It was nice to get a win today,” North Valleys coach Darren Hinds said after watching his club drop 12 straight. “We pitched well and we hit better than we have in a while.”
Sparks (4-12) has just one game next week, a make-up affair of a 3A North League game against Spring Creek. The game will be played Tuesday in Winnemucca at 4 p.m. The Railroaders have eight league games remaining on their schedule and Vasko insisted that’s what his club must focus on.
“We’re not done. I’m not counting us out,” he said. “The last few days have been a humbling experience playing the bigger schools ... We’ve got the eight league games. If we can win four or five, that will give us a chance to make the playoffs. And then it’s a whole new ballgame.”