Thriller at Aces Ballpark
Tahoe Daily Tribune
RENO – One could hardly blame the fans who bolted early to escape the chilly winds gusting through Aces Ballpark on Wednesday evening.
Until the final inning, that is.
What those fans missed was a gritty Truckee comeback punctuated by a two-run, game-winning triple off the bat of Brooks Hudson in the bottom of the seventh inning. The clutch hit, preceded by four similarly crucial at-bats to begin the four-run rally, lifted the Wolverines to an 11-10 win over South Tahoe.
The nonleague game marked the second Truckee-South Tahoe matchup at Aces Ballpark in as many years, as the two faced off last season in the first-ever high school game played in the Triple-A stadium.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said South Tahoe head coach Rich Rubel. “To come down off the mountain and play in a professional ballpark like this, it’s a dream come true for these guys.”
Hudson, still buzzing from his game-winning hit, agreed.
“This is awesome,” he said. “Last year I was a sophomore, so I just watched it from the sideline. So I wanted to play in this game real bad.”
Hudson made the most of his playing time.
With the Wolverines trailing 10-7 after the Vikings pulled ahead with a six-run sixth inning, Trevor Aldridge golfed a low curveball by South Tahoe reliever Tyler Sharp up the middle to lead off the bottom of the seventh. Tanner Churich followed with an RBI triple smashed over the head of Rylan Tepper in center field, and Churich’s younger brother, JV call-up Griffin Churich, laid down a squeeze bunt that scored his brother, and narrowed the gap to 10-9.
James DePew then reached on an error before Ty Englert came through with a base hit up the middle, setting up Hudson with two runners on and one out. Hudson smoked a fastball delivery to deep center, again clearing the head of Tepper as it one-hopped the outfield wall. DePew and Englert raced around the bases to score the tying and winning runs as Truckee players stormed the field in celebration.
“It was a fastball, high and right over the middle of the plate,” Hudson explained. “I was looking for that the whole time. It felt amazing. It was right where I wanted to hit it.”
Both teams treated the game as somewhat of an exhibition, trying to get all their players on the field for a chance to experience the Triple-A ballpark. Truckee threw a different pitcher every inning, and two during the Vikings’ six-run sixth, while South Tahoe threw four different pitchers.
“Everybody got to play, and that was the main thing,” said Truckee head coach Mike Ellis. “And they stepped up and rose to the occasion.”
Ellis was particularly proud of the contributions from second baseman Griffin Churich, who, besides his run-scoring bunt, dove and smothered a ground ball before popping to his feet and throwing out the runner at first to end the top of the seventh inning.
Rubel also was impressed with the play of his team, which was highlighted by a sprawled out diving catch in center by Tepper that robbed DePew of an extra-base hit.
“It was a fantastic game,” Rubel said. “We played great baseball and they played fantastic baseball. Everyone played well. It was just a great game. That’s all there is to it.”
DePew pitched a scoreless top of the first inning as the Wolverines tagged South Tahoe starter Dillon Mckeen for three runs in the bottom half to take an early lead. The Vikings responded, scoring three runs off Steven Baker in the second to tie the game.
Truckee took a 6-4 lead in the fifth on an RBI single by Tanner Churich before South Tahoe broke it open with a big sixth inning. Facing Stein Retzlaff on the mound for the Wolverines, Cody Higgins took a pitch off the shoulder to start the inning. Tepper and Dominic Diana followed with walks to load the bases, and Rigel Garmin drove in two runs with a base hit. After a pop fly for the first out of the inning, Andrew Contaxis kept the rally alive with a two-run triple into the gap. Bobby Oakes then knocked in Contaxis with a double down the third baseline, pushing the Vikings’ lead to 9-6 and prompting a pitching change.
Truckee junior Ryan Smith allowed an additional run on a wild pitch before ending the threat. But the damage was done as South Tahoe took what appeared to be a comfortable 10-6 lead. The Wolverines scored one run in the sixth to set the drama for their seventh-inning comeback.
“That was beautiful,” Ellis said of the come-from-behind win. “We play them (the Vikings) three times next week, so they’re going to be a little angry and bitter.”
Tanner Churich finished 3 for 5 with two triples and two RBI in the game, while Troy Allen and Hudson also contributed two RBI for the Wolverines. Jackson Rohlf was 2 for 3 with a double and RBI and Andy McKechnie and Smith were both 1 for 3 with an RBI. Englert went 2 for 2, and DePew, Baker, Aldridge, Luke Theis each had one hit.
For the Vikings, Garmin led the offense with two RBI on a 3-for-5 performance. Higgins and Contaxis each had two RBI with their extra-base hits, while Derek Clelan went 2 for 4 with a double and RBI. Oakes and Tepper added a hit apiece for South Tahoe, which had 10 hits to Truckee’s 16.
Truckee improved to 7-8 overall. South Tahoe fell to 4-7. The teams meet again in a three-game Mount Rose League series on April 13 and 16.