Spanish Springs rolled to a 9-1 triumph in pool play Wednesday at its Athletics Unlimited Nevada Classic prep baseball tournament. But when the two teams met again Thursday in the tournament championship game, McQueen posted an 11-1 romp.
“This was huge for us, especially after what they did to us yesterday” McQueen assistant coach Mark Rogers. “Our kids came out ready to go and had some good swings early. We scored early and absolutely that was important. That allows you to play more relaxed. And then hopefully you build on a lead, which we did.
“Still, in all fairness, Spanish
Springs is a good ball club. We play them again in the last series of the season. We know that will be big. Both teams could have something riding on it.”
Unlike Wednesday’s pool play affair when it managed only one run, McQueen had plenty of offense in Thursday’s title tilt. The Lancers scored in all but one inning, the second, and were able to end the game after six innings. Tournament mercy rules end a contest when the margin is eight runs or more after the fifth inning.
While McQueen won easily Thursday, Spanish Springs gave the Lancers some help. McQueen scored its 11 runs on only seven hits. Spanish Springs pitching issued nine walks to the Lancers. Cougar hurlers also hit a batter and the SSHS defense committed two costly errors, which certainly didn’t help the hosts’ cause.
“The walks hurt,” Spanish Springs coach Ben Hofmann said. “That’s a lot of it. We did get out of some jams early, but when you walk so many guys, that gets your pitch count up. Even if the walks don’t hurt you early, they hurt you late. Your pitcher can’t go deep into a game and the walks take their toll.
“The walks caught up to us, but give McQueen credit too. They scored in every inning but one and we didn’t execute.”
McQueen jumped ahead 2-0 in the top of the first. Three walks and a passed ball, combined with two MHS hits, helped the Lancers score the runs.
In the third, McQueen added another run, this time without the benefit of a hit. Two walks and a Cougars error led to that Lancers run.
McQueen got three runs in the fourth when Nick Agliolo walked, Anthony Calton singled and Christian Stolo blasted a three-run homer.
Leading 7-1 at that point, the Lancers continued to pour it on. They added another run in the fifth and four more in the sixth.
Spanish Springs, which was held to five hits in defeat, pushed across its lone run of the contest in the bottom of the first inning. Matt Mannens reached on a fielder’s choice, leaving the SSHS nine a runner on first with two outs. Mannens scored after stealing second and seeing Chase Kittilsen lace a run-scoring single.
Kittilsen had two of the Cougars’ five hits but no other Spanish Springs player had more than one knock.
Despite getting saddled with Thursday’s loss, the Cougars’ annual Spring Break tournament was a hit. Spanish Springs was in a rut prior to the tourney, dropping six straight games, all conference clashes and each by three runs or fewer. Spanish Springs won all four of its tournament pool play games before falling Thursday. So that previous rough patch would look to be in the Cougars’ rear-view mirror. Hofmann is hoping that is indeed the case.
“The potential is there for us. We’ve got good baseball-playing kids,” the Cougars’ second-year skipper said. “We have been in (league) games. We’re close. We’re not losing all those games 11-1 like today. For the most part, we’re right there.
“I like some of the adjustments we’ve made at the plate, although not so much today. Now we’ve got a league bye and hopefully we’ll get in a great week of practice. Then we’ve got Manogue Saturday (April 21).”
Hofmann’s sentiments were echoed by Mannens, the Cougars junior shortstop and No. 3 hitter.
“I definitely feel like we’ve gotten a confidence boost,” Mannens said, referring to the teams four wins in its five tournament games. “We’ve got a shot to make the playoffs. If we work hard, we can get it done.”
As Hofmann alluded to, Spanish Springs (10-12, 4-8) has the bye in the Northern 4A League schedule this week. While the rest of the Northern 4A returns to conference series play Tuesday and next Thursday, the Cougars will get some time off before gearing up to meet league power Manogue April 21 in a rematch of last spring’s Northern 4A championship series.