But it was imperfections in the second half of the game that cost the Cougars their lead. Luckily for the Purple and White faithful who braved the cold and wind, the Miners were far from perfect themselves, allowing Spanish Springs to break open the game with a five-run sixth inning en route to a 7-3 triumph.
“It was very ugly. At times we realy focused on hitting line drives and ground balls. We did that early,” SSHS softball coach Jeff Davidson said. “We kind of got back to where we were hitting the ball in the air, and we had a little dry spell. Then I challenged them to come back and refocus and starting hitting the ball hard again. And we did. Fortunately for us today, we did enough to get the win. We made some key mistakes defensively that aren’t acceptable.”
After two balls could have been played better in right field and Manogue tied the game at 2-2 in the bottom of the fifth, the Cougs went right back to work.
Sophomore Myrissa Prince ripped a bouncer up the middle with one out in the top of the sixth to start the rally.
Kayla Arterburn drew a walk after being down to her final strike. Then No. 9 hitter Sidney Sinclair smoked a shot back through the box, loading the bases with her single to center field. Manogue turned to its bullpen and it got uglier.
Bailey Oos-Johns relieved starting pitcher Kolbi Tonini and couldn’t get an out. Leadoff hitter Bella Rovens welcomed Oos-Johns to the game by slapping a high fly ball that landed just inside the left-field line and one-hopped the fence. Runners only moved up one spot on the base paths, but the long RBI single forged Spanish Springs into the lead for good, 3-2.
Back-to-back walks increased the lead to 5-2. Pinch-hitter Kelsie Merritt hit a hard grounder to short. Sierra Esau made a diving play and went for the easy out at second. However, second baseman Allie Lovitt pulled her foot off the bag, so everyone was safe with the score 6-2. Oos-Johns’ third walk of her relief stint forced across the final Spanish Springs run and ended her day. Kayla Batastini took over pitching duties and recorded five straight outs to keep the Cougars from tacking on more runs.
Lawrence was perfect through 3 2-3 innings until Batastini broke up the bid for a no-no in the fourth with a hard base knock up the middle. Batasini also drew the bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the seventh that accounted for the final 7-3 margin.
Manogue left the bases loaded in both the sixth and seventh innings, stranding eight runners in the game, including seven over the last three innings.
“Brette pitched well enough to win, and she battled through it,” Davidson said. “She didn’t have her good stuff, but she did enough to win.”
Spanish Springs looked in control early on. Rovens led off the game with a liner to left field that dropped in for a single and later scored the game’s first run thanks to an RBI single by Kelsey Stroshine.
In the second, the Cougars bats were alive again. Arterburn’s line drive to left with one out went for a single. Four batters later, Spanish Springs took a 2-0 advantage following a Lawrence base hit to left field. However, the visitors also struggled with leaving runners on base, stranding five in the first two innings, which enabled the Miners to keep it close.
Manogue finally got its chance in the bottom of the fifth frame. With one out, SSHS right fielder Stroshine was playing deep despite a strong wind that cut down many fly balls on the day. Christa Young took advantage, dropping in a soft liner in front of Stroshine for a single.
Lovitt then hit a grounder through the hole between the first and second basemen for a single, but it was misplayed by Stroshine and the ball kept rolling. Young scored all the way from first, and Lovitt ended up on third, while cutting the deficit in half, 2-1.
Stevie Tavener tied it up with her RBI single past the backhand of second baseman Dani Smith. But Manogue couldn’t get more than 5 1-3 innings out of Tonini in the circle. She allowed five runs on eight hits.
Rovens was the lone Cougar with more than one hit in the game, rapping out two singles and scoring two runs. Spanish Springs was held hitless in four of the seven innings.
Batastini and Tavener each had two hits in the losing cause.
Spanish Springs (4-2, 1-0) will host Damonte Ranch in a doubleheader starting at 10 a.m. Saturday.
“Bishop Manogue is a very good team. We just go one game at a time like we always have,” Davidson said. “We focused on Bishop Manogue this week in practice. Next up is Damonte. Tomorrow we’ll focus on Damonte. That’s as far as we’ll look.”
Spanish Springs 8,
Damonte Ranch 5
Baseball teams want to avoid early-season sweeps as much as possible because it will hurt come playoff qualifying time.
Chase Kittilsen made sure his Spanish Springs squad would not suffer that fate at Damonte Ranch Thursday.
Not only did the senior pitcher hurl the Cougars to victory, but he also blasted a pair of home runs, leading Spanish Springs to a 8-5 road win to split the first Northern 4A league series of the year.
“It was huge. We had to split. It was absolutely huge,” SSHS baseball coach Ben Hofmann said. “That’s a good team, and we’re going to need them (wins).”
Kittilsen went 4 2-3 innings on the mound, allowing two runs on three hits, while walking two and striking out three.
“He was (very effective). He really did a good job. He pitched much better today,” Hofmann said.
But it was his bat that staked the Cougars to a game-long lead. In the top of the third, Spanish Springs posted a four spot on the scoreboard. The big blow came on Kittilsen’s three-run homer.
The Mustangs were able to push across two runs in the bottom half of the inning, but Kittilsen’s two-run bomb in the fifth made it a 6-2 game.
Spanish Springs increased its lead to a game-high 8-2 margin with two more runs in the sixth. Matt Mannens had an RBI double in the inning.
Damonte tallied two runs in the sixth and one in the fifth to make the final score more respectable.
Shane Lawson, Vinnie Agliolo and Anthony Tiscareno all doubled for the Cougars. Chadd Little went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles.
Spanish Springs (3-4, 1-1 in Northern 4A) is back in action with a single game Saturday. Carson will come to town for the 11 a.m. clash.