Spanish Springs scored six runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to put the 10-run mercy rule into effect and capture a 12-2 triumph over Lynbrook of San Jose.
Combined with their two wins Wednesday, the Cougars (16-4) finish pool play perfect at the AU Invitational. The trio of wins advance the tournament hosts into the inaugural event's championship game today against Central Valley of Redding, Calif. First pitch is set at 4 p.m.
Spanish Springs senior pitcher Alex Vetter was the star of the show Thursday. The Cougars' 6-foot 6-inch senior right-hander dominated Lynbrook hitters. He scattered three hits and struck out 10 while issuing just one walk in the complete-game victory.
“I had real good command. I knew it in the bullpen before the game,” Vetter said. “It was warm and I was feeling good today.”
Vetter also got a win for the Cougars Friday in a High Desert League game against Elko, but he was much better Thursday. Six days earlier he struck out six Indians but walked three and hit two. Against Lynbrook, Vetter was razor-sharp. He threw 68 pitches in his five innings of work and 54 of those were strikes. He started 17 of the 20 Vikings' hitters he saw with strikes.
“He didn't do anything wrong,” Spanish Springs coach Mike Bosco said of Vetter's stellar outing. “We were just talking about how much easier it is to pitch when you throw first-pitch strikes. He's impressed us the most of any of our pitchers this spring. He'd be a lot of people's No. 1 guy. I'm just really comfortable when he's out there.”
Vetter got plenty of offensive support from his Cougars teammates. Spanish Springs jumped on Lynbrook (4-11) for three runs in both the first and second innings.
In the SSHS first, Jake Bray singled, Tanner Oates was hit by a pitch and Humberto Espinoza ripped a two-run double. Espinoza came plateward on a Brandon Mathis run-scoring single for an early 3-0 Cougars' lead.
Lynbrook got its first run in the top of inning two but Spanish Springs went right back to work in its half of the frame. Anthony Vierra reached on an infield single. Bray stepped up next and proceeded to deposit a Lynbrook pitch beyond the right-field fence for a two-run dinger. Oates kept the rally going when he reached via a walk and went to second on a passed ball. Oates scored when Mathis hit a ball to the Vikings' shortstop that went for an error, resulting in a 6-1 score.
Lynbrook added its second run in the top of the fourth, narrowing the margin to 6-2. The Cougars failed to score in the third or fourth innings but after wholesale lineup changes, the Spanish Springs reserves showed offensive life.
Leading 6-2 with one out in the bottom of the fifth, Tim Epker reached for the Cougars when his pop fly to right field dropped for an error. Epker got to second on the Vikings' miscue. He scored on a Kendall Murphy double.
Malcolm Anderson plated Murphy with an RBI single, but was cut down later in the inning trying to get to third, leaving the Cougars with an 8-2 advantage. Still, the Cougars were not done. With two outs and no runners on the basepaths, Davis Murphy singled. He circled the sacks after another Lynbrook error in right field that put Chase Kittilsen on second base.
Brycen Erdody singled to bring Kittilsen home and when a throw went through to the plate, Erdody moved to second. He came around to score after a passed ball and wild pitch, making the score 11-2.
“I felt like we were in control and let's face it. In close games, some of those guys won't play as much,” Bosco said. “I wanted to get (the reserve) guys an opportunity to play. I felt like for the most part, everyone took advantage.”
Spanish Springs ended the game early with its 12th run. That came after Vetter walked and raced around the bases following yet another outfield error by the Vikings.
“There was a little wind and some altitude we're not used to,” Lynbrook coach Ken Wallis said of his team's fielding woes. “Plus we were playing some guys out of position, but we just couldn't squeeze it.
“Spanish Springs is a good team. They're used to hitting it well. That's why we threw a lot of junk at them and it kept them off balance for awhile, but defensively we didn't get it done. You can't give up five outs an inning.”