Not only had the Cougars been mired in a three-week skid, but the six straight losses in the stretch were of the tough-luck variety. All of them came by three runs or fewer. So you can bet Spanish Springs players and coaches were ecstatic to pick up wins of 11-3 and 8-3 over Yreka, Calif. and Drake of San Anselmo, Calif. on Day 1of their tourney.
“We played a little bit better,” Spanish Springs second-year coach Ben Hofmann said. “That helped and it was good to just get some two-out hits. We hadn’t seen many of those recently. So that was good.”
In the Cougars’ first game of the day, junior right-hander Garrett Covington led the way with a solid pitching performance. Covington turned in a six-inning complete-game victory. He scattered 10 Yreka hits, but did not walk or plunk a single Miners hitter. The California school got to him for three runs but just one was earned.
“He stayed low and away all day,” Hofmann said. “He was good with his off-speed pitches and he mixed in his fastball enough to keep them honest. He had a good curveball and good changeup ... He picked a couple runners off. He’s got a good quick move to first that helps him. He’s real calm and doesn’t get rattled. He did a good job.”
Spanish Springs staked Covington to an early lead with a pair of first-inning runs. Lucas Jones singled and moved up a base after his hit was misplayed in right field. Hunter Fralick followed and was hit by a pitch. Both scored after a Matt Mannens sacrifice fly and Vinny Agliolo RBI single.
Both teams put up a single run in the second and neither team scored in the third, leaving the SSHS nine on top 3-1. Spanish Springs began to create a cushion when it pushed across a trio of runs in the bottom of the fourth.
Gehrig Parks ripped a one-out double to initiate the Cougars’ fourth-inning threat. He scored shortly thereafter on a balk. Next, Jones and Fralick were hit by pitches. The duo was allowed to circle the sacks after a Yreka error.
Agliolo doubled and scored while Anthony Tiscareno singled and scored as Spanish Springs tacked on two more runs in the fifth, extending its lead to 8-2.
Yreka did get a run back in the top of the sixth but Spanish Springs added three more scores in the bottom of the frame, ending the contest by virtue of an eight-run, tournament mercy rule. Chase Kittilsen mashed a two-run homer to left field to highlight the Cougars’ three-run sixth.
Game 2 Tuesday saw the Cougars get all the offense they’d need with a four-run first frame. The first two hitters in the Cougars’ lineup, Troy Weller and Shane Lawson, were issued walks. Mannens followed with a single to saturate the sacks and Kittilsen cleared them with a grand slam.
Drake tried to hang around. The California club got two runs back in the top of the second, but it could not keep in contention. The host Cougars proceeded to tack on two more runs in each of the second and third innings. Kittilsen had a run-scoring single in the second and Lawson doubled home a pair of runs in the third.
Spanish Springs starting pitcher Chadd Little, an all-league selection last spring as a junior, has had an up-and-down spring due to injuries and ineffectiveness. However, against Drake, he put up one of his better efforts of the year. Little worked four-plus innings. He allowed four hits and two runs, while whiffing two and walking three.
“He was better,” Hofmann said. “He still had a couple miscues. He plunked a guy, but he got a couple things going. He is working through fighting off an ankle injury. Today, it started to look like what what we’ve gotten from him in the past .
“It really helps in tournaments, where you’ve got five games in three days, and then you get two guys to go five-plus innings on the hill. That really helps in a tournament setting.”
Spanish Springs (8-11) will get in two more tourney tilts today when it hosts North Valleys at 1 p.m. and McQueen at 4 p.m.
“I know they were getting tired,” Hofmann said at the end of Tuesday’s action. “I was. We don’t play doubleheaders any more, certainly not very many. So I said to them ‘Go home. Get rest. Get fluids.’ We’ll be here for another doubleheader tomorrow. That can take its toll.”