FERNLEY, Nev. –—The Wolverines had to wait a month and a half to earn a shot at revenge against the rival Vaqueros. They made the most of their payback opportunity.
After committing seven errors in a 13-7 loss to Fernley in a Division I-A crossover tournament in mid March, Truckee swept past the host Vaqueros, 6-1 and 14-5, in a best-of-three first-round playoff series Friday.
“That was huge. Our coaches have been saying all year that it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” said Truckee senior Chris Towle, who had six hits on the day while starting and earning the win in Game 2. “That was a huge confidence booster.”
Truckee received solid outings from a handful of pitchers despite not throwing its No. 1 starter, Erik Holmer, who pitched the regular-season finale against South Tahoe on Tuesday.
Instead juniors Riley Guiragossian and Ty Vaio combined to hold the hosts to one run on five hits in the first game. Towle settled in after a three-run first inning in the second contest, holding the Vaqueros to four runs through five innings. His offense took care of the rest, as the Wolverines, trailing 3-2 after four innings, rallied for eight runs the top of the fifth to take over the lead for good.
“I thought we played great,” said Truckee coach Mike Ellis. “Not getting hits with men on base has been killing us, but today we got it done. The guys got a lot of talent. They just have to keep the wheels on the wagon.”
Guiragossian had early support in the opener. The Wolverines tagged left-handed Fernley starter Andrew Nelson for four runs on three hits, a walk and balk in the first inning before Guiragossian ran into some trouble of his own in the bottom half. Thanks to an unassisted double play turned by shortstop Aaron Pado, however, he escaped a bases-loaded jam with only one run in.
It was the only run the Vaqueros could muster against Guiragossian, who cruised through the second through fourth innings before getting a bloody nose as he warmed up for the fifth. Coaches tried for several minutes to stop the bleeding but were unsuccessful, prompting Ellis to bring in Vaio.
The left-hander came through, holding Fernley scoreless the rest of the way.
“Riley threw great. And Ty did an awesome job. I couldn’t ask for anything more,” Ellis said. “That was a coach’s dream, coming in like that.”
Vaio allowed three hits and a walk over the final three innings, while Guiragossian gave up three hits and two walks while walking five.
Holmer drove in two runs with a clutch, two-out single in the first. Senior Travis Ferre also drove in a run to cap the early rally, while senior Jackson Rohlf knocked in Truckee’s fifth run in the seventh and Towle scored on a wild pitch in the seventh to round out the scoring.
Senior center fielder Andy McKechnie went 3-for-4 in the game, Towle was 2-for-3 and Thor Retzlaff was 2-for-3 as the Wolverines managed 10 hits total off of Nelson, who threw all seven innings. Fernley committed four errors to Truckee’s one.
The Wolverines had to play catch-up in Game 2.
After Truckee scored a run on a throwing error in the top of the first, Fernley struck for three runs in the bottom of the inning off of Towle, who walked three and gave up three hits before inducing a 4-6-3 double play to work out of a bases-loaded jam.
Both Towle and Fernley starter Nick Nelson settled in until the Wolverines’ big fifth inning, when they sent 14 hitters to the plate and scored eight runs, turning a 3-2 deficit into a 10-3 lead.
Towle allowed a run in the fifth before his outing was over. McKechnie then threw a scoreless sixth and gave up a run in the seventh as Truckee closed out the series.
Fernley committed another five errors in the second game to help fuel Truckee’s rallies.
“Overall I thought we pitched pretty well and we played hard. But we lacked discipline in key situations and we had too many errors,” said Fernley coach Todd Buchan. “Truckee played well. They were disciplined at the plate and they pitched well. They outplayed us.”
Towle helped his cause by going 4-for-5 with two RBIs. Holmer drove in another two runs on a 2-for-4 game, while Rohlf, Guiragossian and Mike Jones each had two hits, and McKechnie, Pado, Bradley VanSchoonhoven and Connor Nicholas each had one. Truckee banged out 16 hits in all.
“We worked hard all week to come out and play,” Towle said. “When we needed clutch hits, we got them, and the pitchers were there to back it up.”
With the series win Truckee advanced to the double-elimination Northern Division I-A regional tournament, scheduled for May 10-11 at Lowry High School in Winnemucca. The Wolverines will enter as the fourth seed and will open against top-seeded Elko in a rematch of last year’s state championship. Third-seeded Fallon and second-seeded Lowry match up on the other side of the bracket.