The Buckaroos simply blew the Railroaders away, 13-0 in six innings to take the first game in the three-game playoff series that decides one of the North’s representatives for state.
“I think our guys were overexcited to be playing today,” Sparks baseball coach Greg Vasko said. “The good thing about playoff baseball is we still have tomorrow. We’re looking forward to tomorrow. Lowry is a good team. They came to play today. Once they started getting some runs, it was like a domino effect.”
Sparks fans knew it would be a long day from the very first batter. Lowry leadoff man Jace Billingsley ripped a double that one-hopped the fence in left-center field.
Anders Pace drew a one-out walk and stole second base. A wild pitch in the dirt allowed Billingsley to score the game’s first run and Pace scurried to third.
Following a walk to Bryan Noble, and errant pickoff throw to first enabled Pace to come home and Noble went from first to third. Noble made it a 3-0 game when he scored on Dusty Kraft’s RBI groundout to shortstop.
Lowry pushed across four more runs in the top of the second.
Sparks pitcher Dennis Morelli had two strikes against Gus Duncan, but he served up a solo shot to dead-center field to start the inning.
With two outs, a walk and hit batsman put two runners on for Pace, who hit a high chopper just inside the third-base line for a two-run double.
Noble capped the four-run rally with a run-scoring single to left field, increasing the visitors’ lead to 7-0.
The tide looked like it was turning for the Maroon and Gold in the third inning.
Morelli struck out the side in the top half of the inning and Martin Jordan launched a ground-rule double to lead off the bottom half of the inning for Sparks. But that’s as good as it got for the Railroaders as Noble proceeded to strike out the side. Noble went the distance in the mercy-rule shortened affair, giving up four hits and walking no one. He had eight strikeouts in the win.
After being held hitless for three straight innings, the Buckaroos got their offense going again in the sixth.
Lowry posted a five spot on the board before Sparks recorded an out.
Duncan got things started with an infield single. Lowry’s No. 8 and 9 hitters dropped down back-to-back bunts, but both Calvin Connors and Brandon Eastman reached safely thanks to Sparks miscues on its bunt coverage, loading the bases.
Billingsley was fooled on an off-speed pitch and got out on his front foot. But he was still able to reach out and pull a two-run double down the left-field line.
Mitch Pollock drove in a pair with a single, pushing the lead to double digits for the first time, 11-0. Lowry pushed across two more runs on a Kraft single and Duncan’s RBI fielder’s choice.
Billingsley, Pace, Kraft, Duncan and Connors all had two hits apiece in the winning cause. Billingsley, Pollock, Pace, Kraft and Duncan each finished with two RBIs.
Sparks, the No. 1 seed from the Mount Rose League, still has a chance to reach state, but has to win back-to-back games today. If the Railroaders win the 10 a.m. contest, another game will follow at 1 p.m.