While the two sides played a full seven innings, it was the top of the fourth that proved to be the difference.
With Spanish Springs (4-1) already holding a 3-0 edge, the Cougars went to the plate and gave themselves some breathing room with a five-run fourth.
To start the rally, a single by Vinny Agliolo, walk to Chase Hauder and single by Kyle Messer loaded the bases for the Cougars. Gehrig Parks then stepped to the plate and roped a single into left field to score Agliolo, but a bobble in the outfield allowed Hauder to round third and touch home to push the score to 5-0.
With one out and runners at second and third, Hunter Pinto then hit a slow dribbler to second base that allowed Messer to beat the throw to the plate for a 6-0 lead. Pinto then stole second base to put a pair in scoring position for Shannon Kelly, who sent a flare into center field to plate Parks. An error then sent Pinto home, leaving the Cougars on top 8-0, essentially sealing the win for SSHS.
“We took advantage of a couple things. They had an error or two and a couple of walks, so we took advantage of that,” Spanish Springs coach Ben Hofmann said. “On top of that, we had some clutch hits. We’ve been looking for some two-out base hits and base hits with one out and runners on. We haven’t been able to get those consistently throughout this early season, but we did here today. We did a better job of getting a couple of hits in key spots and that really was the difference.”
While the Cougars had timely hitting, Reed coach John Phenix felt that his team was playing a little hesitant on defense.
“We got behind in the count way too much, both offensively and defensively,” Phenix said. “I thought we got behind too much in the count from our end of it because defensively it put us on our heels. We just never got ahead of their hitters and we didn’t play good defense like we have.
“We were just on our heels. If you’re in the strike zone early and keep a rhythm up, your defense tends to play better behind you. If that rhythm isn’t there, they get back on their heels and the next thing you know the ball is hit sharply at them and they aren’t ready for it. I think that was the biggest factor.”
Reed (4-1) attempted to claw its way back, but never managed more than one run an inning the rest of the way.
In the bottom of the fourth, Raider Tyler Starley sent a solo shot over the left field fence for Reed’s first run of the game. The Raiders scored another run in the bottom of the fifth when an errant pick-off attempt went into center field, allowing Jake Haley to go from second to home, cutting the score to 8-2 at the end of five. Another Cougars’ error in the bottom of the sixth allowed Starley to score a run following his leadoff double to trim the deficit to 8-3, but the Raiders could not complete the comeback.
“Their kid had us off-balance,” Phenix said of SSHS starter Garrett Covington. “He was spotting the ball well and kept the ball down. He just made some good pitches and we didn’t put any pressure on him early and they capitalized.”
To start the game, Spanish Springs built itself a 3-0 a lead in the second inning. Jeff McCusker reached third base on an error, followed by a pair of walks to Lucas Jones and Agliolo. With the bases juiced, Hauder singled home McCusker for the first run of the contest. Kenny Semenko then hit into what looked like a double play, but a wayward throw to first pushed Agliolo right behind Jones for a pair of runs and a 3-0 advantage.
Covington earned the win for the Cougars, striking out six while giving up five hits and three runs (one earned) over 5 1/3 innings. Jones then closed the door on the SSHS victory, tossing the final 1 2/3 innings with just one hit allowed and three strikeouts.
“Garrett mixed up and changed speeds and that kept them off balance,” Spanish Springs coach Ben Hofmann said. “They are a good hitting ball club and for him to do what he did, I was very impressed. He was just really mixing his fastball with some off-speed stuff and he did a good job.”
On the mound for the Raiders Chris Flores went four innings with one strikeout, four walks, six hits and eight runs, four of which were earned. Jonathon Pinto also pitched two innings with no runs and two strikeouts before Brandon Koszuth came in relief in the seventh for no runs and a pair of strikeouts.
In Reed’s first contest of the day, Starley hit another solo homer, this time with much more at stake. Tied 6-6 with Douglas and the game in the bottom of the seventh, Starley wasted no time with the late-game dramatics as he led off the inning by drilling the game winner over the left field fence for a 7-6 win.
Spanish Springs was also victorious in its first tilt, handing Fallon an 11-5 defeat.
The Cougars will get set to host Galena while Reed will be at home against Damonte on Tuesday at 3:45 p.m.