Sparks was blasted by double digits Wednesday on the softball diamond but came roaring back Saturday to sweep the doubleheader against visiting Truckee, winning by scores of 4-3 and 8-4. On the baseball front, Sparks split a twin bill against its California foe, winning the first game 12-11 before falling in Game 2, 5-3.
Here’s a closer look at the doubleheaders pitting the two schools.
•Melissa Tallent was the star of the show for Sparks. She turned in complete-game pitching victories in both ends of the double dip. In the 4-3 Game 1 win, she limited Truckee to three hits while striking out five and walking four.
In the 8-4 Game 2 triumph, she fanned five Wolverines without issuing a walk. Truckee got to Tallent for just four hits in the second affair. Two of those came in the seventh inning when she appeared to tire, giving up three runs.
“I felt like I did pitch pretty well today,” Tallent said. “I was surprised because I haven’t pitched two straight in a while, but I also had a good defense behind me. I moved the ball in and out well. My screwball wasn’t really working for me, but my catcher did a great job framing pitches and helping me get strikes.”
Sparks trailed 3-2 in the opener as it came up for its final at bat. The Railroaders rallied in that seventh inning for a pair of runs and their first 3A North League win. Katie Hippert walked and Ally Tallman singled to start the Sparks threat. Both scored after three straight singles by Amanda Mahon, Krysti Collier and Stephanie Parker.
After Sparks broke a scoreless tie with a run in the bottom of inning three, Truckee took control with a three-run fifth frame. The Railroaders answered with a run in the bottom of the fifth to trim the margin to 3-2 and set the stage for their dramatic game-winning rally in the seventh. Tallman doubled and scored on a Mahon sacrifice fly for the SHS club’s fifth-inning run.
“We were all healthy today. We’ve all been fighting colds,” Sparks coach Frank Avilla said. “The kids were more disciplined today. They finished more swings. I’m really proud of them and not so much for the wins, but for the focus.”
In Game 2, Sparks wasted no time grabbing the momentum. Railroaders leadoff hitter Kristina Avilla bashed the second pitch she saw over the left-field fence for a solo homer in the bottom of the first inning.
Avilla’s bomb proved to jump start the Sparks offense as it went on to put up five more runs in the inning. Shortly after Avilla’s dinger, Tallman reached on a fielder’s choice. Mahon and Collier followed and both reached on Truckee errors, loading the bases. A Parker single and Gabby Durante fielder’s choice plated two runs. Jasmine Hernandez was hit by a pitch, forcing in another run. Sparks then got a trio of consecutive walks to bring in two more runs.
Sparks improved to 3-4-1 overall and 2-2 in conference clashes. The Railroaders return to the diamond Friday when they go to eastern Nevada to face Spring Creek in the opener of a three-game series.
“In Wednesday’s loss to Truckee we lacked focus,” Tallent said. “Today, we came ready to play. We knew we needed to win this series. We played two good games and we played together.”
•Sparks picked up its first 3A North League win of the young season, by winning Game 1 of Saturday’s doubleheader, 12-11. The Railroaders (2-7, 1-5) had a chance to capture the sweep, but a pair of Truckee runs in the seventh inning of the nightcap, lifted the Wolverines to the 5-3 win.
Sparks and Truckee were deadlocked at 3-3 going to the final frame of Game 2 when the visitors mustered two runs with two outs. The Railroaders tried to answer in the bottom of the inning. Dennis Morrelli reached on an error. Joe Puccinelli and Dakota Bailey then drew walks to load the bases for Sparks with no outs.
That’s as good as it got for Sparks. Kirk Putman and Leonel Abundis struck out and then Joe Christ hit a lazy fly ball behind second base that went for an easy popup and the final out of the contest.
Truckee led 2-0 after its half of the fourth, but Sparks knotted the league tilt at 2-2 with two runs in the bottom of the fourth. Bailey doubled and Putman walked. They scored after an RBI fielder’s choice by Abundis and a Christ single.
Sparks went ahead 3-2 in the fifth when Morrelli doubled and scored on a Puccinelli single. However, Truckee got the tying run in the sixth en route to its telltale seventh-inning rally.
“We’re the best 1-5 team I’ve seen,” Sparks coach Greg Vasko said of his team’s early-season struggles. “We didn’t play well in our last series against Dayton, but we’re getting better.
“I wanted the (doubleheader) sweep really bad. We had the opportunity with guys in scoring position. We just didn’t get it done. We need to show more discipline at the plate.”
In Game 1, Sparks overcame an 8-2 deficit and took advantage of 11 Truckee errors to outlast the Wolverines in the one-run win.
Sparks trimmed the Truckee lead to 8-5 with three runs in the third. Bailey had the big blow, a three-run homer after Andrew Garcia doubled and Puccinelli reached on an error.
Sparks tied the game in fourth after a near carbon copy of its third-inning onslaught. Morrelli walked, Puccinelli singled and Bailey bashed another three-run homer.
Truckee (7-1, 5-1) went ahead 10-8 with single runs in the fifth and sixth, but Sparks hung a four spot on its guests in its half of the sixth for what would prove to be the game-winning rally.
Morelli, Puccinelli and Bailey ripped back-to-back-to-back doubles to kick off the frame and tie the game at 10-10. The Railroaders tacked on two more runs after a pair of fielders choices and another Wolverines error.
“In the first game, they made some errors and helped us out a bit,” Vasko said. “In the second game, they made plays. We hit the ball, just right at people.”
Sparks plays a single game at Spring Creek Friday and a doubleheader on the road against the Spartans Saturday.