Spanish Springs downed North
Valleys 8-4 in its first game Tuesday and returned to the diamond less than an hour later to beat up McQueen 9-1 in five innings. The lopsided margin allowed Spanish Springs to implement the tournament’s eight-run mercy rule.
“We came out with a lot of energy for that second game,” Spanish Springs coach Ben Hofmann said. “We had a really good approach to the second game, something we haven’t had in a couple weeks. McQueen threw a lefty at us and we did good job of staying back and hitting the ball where it was pitched. It was really nice to see.”
Spanish Springs (10-11) and McQueen will meet again today in the tournament’s championship game at Spanish Springs. First pitch is set for 4 p.m.
The Cougars have made a trend of finding early offense in the tournament. In their second game of the day Wednesday, against McQueen, Spanish Springs scored two runs in the first and four in the second to find themselves holding a 6-0 edge after two innings.
In the first, Shane Lawson was hit by a pitch with one out. After a sacrifice bunt, Chase Kittilsen stepped up and homered for a quick 2-0 Cougars lead.
An inning later, Nikk Audenreid started a four-run rally with a single. Audenried scored soon after, but it looked like McQueen might get out of the inning without any further damage as it turned a double play, cutting down a Cougar at the plate.
Any limited damage for the visiting Lancers wasn’t meant to be. With two outs and a run in, Spanish Springs responded with three more runs. Lucas Jones was hit by a pitch. Lawson reached on an error and Matt Mannens singled. All three came around to score.
“When we get some early offense, that allows us to use our speed,” Hofmann said. “We can bunt, hit and run, move runners over, basically use small ball. We’ve got a lot of team speed but when you’re down early, it’s hard to use that. When you get up by a couple runs, that gives you the ability to do different things and try different things. When we get guys in motion, that’s when we’ve been the most successful.”
Spanish Springs got another run in the third after Vinny Agliolo singled and scored. The Cougars’ last two runs came in the fifth. Anthony Tiscareno led off the inning with a solo dinger. Audenreid followed with a single and circled the sacks after two more singles, by Hunter Fralick and Gehrig Parks.
Audenreid was the winning pitcher for Spanish Springs. He tossed all five innings of the shortened affair, allowing one run and four hits. He struck out three and walked one.
“He had a really good fastball,” Hofmann said. “He could locate it inside and out. He mixed in an off-speed pitch, either the curve or change. He was really good. He kept the ball down and McQueen could not get a lot of good swings on him.”
In the first game, Spanish Springs also got its offense going early, pushing across all eight of its runs in the first four innings. The SSHS nine got three runs in the first inning, two in the third and three more in the fourth to account for its eight scores.
Despite the quick offense, Spanish Springs still had to play from behind early on. That’s because North Valleys scored a pair of unearned runs in the first inning. The first two Panthers hitters of the game reached on Cougars fielding miscues and both came around to score, giving North Valleys a 2-0 edge after the top of the first.
However, the Panthers’ lead was short lived as Spanish Springs posted a trio of first-inning scores of its own. Lawson singled and Mannens reached on a fielder’s choice to initiate the Cougars’ first-inning threat. Kittilsen singled to load the bases and Taylor McBroom plated two with a triple. A Hunter Tracy RBI double brought the Cougars’ third run of the inning home.
North Valleys knotted the tournament tilt at 3-3 with a run in the top of the third, but Spanish Springs went right back to work on offense in the bottom of the inning. Lawson singled and then Kittilsen reached on an error. Both came around to score for a 5-3 SSHS advantage.
The Cougars added their last three runs in the game with a rally in the fourth. Kenny Semenko reached on an error and Shannon Kelly got down a bunt single. Lawson brought Semenko home on an RBI fielder’s choice. After Jones was hit by a pitch, Kittilsen ripped a two-run triple, capping the Spanish Springs offensive output.
Parks picked up the pitching victory for Spanish Springs. He started and worked five innings, giving up three runs, only one of which was earned. He struck out four and walked two.