“One of our coaches said ‘roller coaster’ because it was so up and down,” Spanish Springs coach Ben Hofmann said. “We were down for a good portion of the time. They got hot and got their bats going early then it happened for us late. Unfortunately it was too late.”
Trying to put the brakes on a four-game skid, Spanish Springs found itself standing in a nine-run hole as the Huskies held a 10-1 advantage at the end of four innings.
A 3-up, 3-down top of the fifth left Reno one run away from putting the game away via the mercy rule. The Huskies loaded the bases with just one out in the bottom of the fifth, putting Spanish Springs on the brink, but junior relief pitcher Lucas Jones was able to sit down the next two batters to get the Cougs out of the jam.
Still facing a steep climb, the Purple and Silver began digging itself out of the hole in the top of the sixth.
After a leadoff groundout, Spanish Springs loaded the bases with a walk and a pair of singles from Taylor McBroom and Vinny Agliolo. A hit batsman pushed Chase Kittilsen home to chase Reno starter Grant Kukuk and ignite the Cougars’ rally.
With the sacks still full, a grounder to the shortstop off the bat of Nick Audenried was bobbled and then thrown into right field, clearing the base paths and cutting the deficit to 10-5. An ensuing walk and hit batter loaded the bases again for Spanish Springs and brought on another call to the bullpen for the Huskies.
Senior Shane Lawson then stepped to the dish and blooped a single in between the middle infielders and the center fielder, plating Audenried to bring the score to 10-6. After a strikeout momentarily halted the Spanish Springs comeback, Kittilsen doubled down the left-field line to score two more runs for the Cougs.
With the Lawson on third and Kittilsen representing the tying run on second, McBroom again stepped into the box and this time delivered with a single into right field, scoring both teammates and completing the Cougars’ nine-run inning to knot the game up at 10-10.
Hofmann said the rally illustrated the resiliency of his team.
“We had a couple breaks go our way,” Hofmann said. “Their shortstop kicked one and we were kind of able to take that and got into their bullpen a little bit. Then we were able to add a little bit. It was just one of those games.
“Our guys will stay loose and they will keep swinging it. They will have a good approach at the plate. I thought we had good approaches at that point. Hitting is contagious. I really feel that if you can get a couple guys to start swinging then it just kind of blows up. If we can get a couple of guys going, then it will spark the rest of our club.”
Unfortunately for the Spanish Springs faithful, the Cougars were unable to take the lead and the tie did not last long.
Reno answered with three runs in the top of the seventh for the 13-10 lead.
Cougars junior Kenny Semenko doubled to lead off the seventh, but the slim hope for Spanish Springs was dashed away with a pair of pop outs and a groundout to end the game.
Reno (13-1, 8-0 Northern 4A) put five runs on the board with its first at-bat, immediately leaving the Cougars playing from behind. The poor first inning defensively was not what stuck out in Hofmann’s mind after the game. It was two Cougar runners that were cut down at home in each of the first two innings.
“We didn’t play real well defensively early, but the big thing was that we had a couple base running mistakes in the first couple innings,” Hofmann said.
“It’s like I told our guys, two runs were left out there. Two runners were thrown out at the plate in the first and second inning. That looks big right now. That looks huge. One was a missed sign and I’m not sure what the other one was. Two runs left out there though looks really big right now, especially when you get a leadoff double to start the seventh inning. If we’re down one in that spot, that’s a big difference. We just have to shore up some little things and just play better. We just have to play better.”
Reno had 13 hits in the game while the Cougars had nine.
Spanish Springs (6-9, 4-6 Northern 4A) will look to get back in the win column when it hosts Douglas on Thursday at 3:45 p.m.