Vikings end 10-game losing streak
SPARKS – Losing wasn’t an option for the South Tahoe High baseball team on Thursday morning.
After being beaten up by the heavyweights of Northern Nevada League baseball over the past three weeks, the Vikings ran into a similar opponent on Thursday morning in the Spanish Springs tournament.
The Vikings took advantage, putting their fielding and clutch-hitting struggles behind them in a 4-2 victory over Elko.
Senior Max DeLallo pitched the seven-inning distance to earn his third victory of the season. DeLallo fought through two late-inning rallies by the Indians and a 133-pitch count to help the Vikings end a 10-game losing streak. With a coach from Western Nevada College in attendance, DeLallo finished with 12 strikeouts.
“My last two starts have been wild, so I just went back to my basics,” DeLallo said. “I didn’t try to overthrow. I just went in there and tried to throw a lot of strikes. If they put the ball in play, my team was there for me. The past few days I haven’t been thinking like that. I (was thinking) I had to do it all on my own.”
An infield error allowed pinch-hitter Ben Pearson to reach first base to lead off the Elko seventh inning. But DeLallo struck out pinch-hitter Marco Torres, and third baseman Rylan Tepper, just called up from the junior varsity, reacted quickly to make a running catch of Nick Antonucci’s fly ball in short left field for the second out.
“Rylan made every play at third base,” said South Tahoe coach Don Amaral. “I told him, ‘You’re good enough to play at this level, so make the plays.'”
The Indians, however, didn’t concede. Pearson caught the Vikings by surprise by swiping second base, then John Green reached on an infield hit to send Pearson to third base. Green beat Connor Casey’s throw to second for the Indians’ second steal of the inning, setting up a potential game-tying hit. But after falling behind Benjamin Suyematsu 3 and 1, DeLallo remained poised and fanned Elko’s No. 2 hitter on a ticked fastball that Casey gathered in his mitt for the final out.
“In that situation you just have to throw strikes because if you walk him, that’s on you. I’d rather go down on my own terms, so I just beared down and threw strikes,” DeLallo said.
The win was the Vikings’ first since beating Dayton on March 23.
“This feels really refreshing,” said South Tahoe junior Dillon McKeen. “It’s like every game the kids get down because we lose, then we just played worse and worse. This game should bring us back up, and we should do better.”
Indians’ junior pitcher Chris Davis matched zeroes with DeLallo until the sixth, allowing just two hits through five innings. The Vikings chased a tiring Davis in the sixth. Cleanup hitter Jamie Yelles led off with a hit that Suyematsu kept in the infield by making a diving stop at short. DeLallo singled to left on a hit-and-run, but with the ball on the third-base side, Yelles was forced to hold up at second base. Davis tried to pick off Yelles at second base and the throw went into center field, allowing the Vikings to advance a base. Davis got the next batter out on a strikeout.
McKeen was then asked to put down a safety squeeze bunt, but Amaral called off the play as Davis released the pitch. McKeen adjusted in time to slap the ball to a drawn-in third baseman Tyler Brumit. Brumit looked at Yelles, who was a third of the way down the line, and decided to throw to first for the out. Yelles sprinted the rest of the way home to beat the throw from first base, scoring the go-ahead run.
“I told Jamie not to break until he saw the ball down,” Amaral said. “I thought Jamie’s baserunning was perfect. We knew the first baseman was poor on the exchange, so if we could get the ball where he had to make the throw, I thought we could beat it.”
Elko coach Shane Gilligan said giving up an out to keep the runner at third base may have been the better play in hindsight, but his fielder only had a split second to make a decision.
“It’s a tough play. Just given the distance he was off the bag, it would have been nice to run him back,” Gilligan said. “It was a great play by their coach putting a slap on because they knew from our communication to our players that a squeeze was coming.
“We might have had a chance to throw him out at home, but we had the bobble on the transfer at first.”
Davis finished with five strikeouts before leaving with two outs in the sixth.
“He didn’t quite have the zip on his fastball that we’re used to seeing, but he still did a good job for us,” Gilligan said.
Tepper provided some insurance by spanking a double to left field, scoring DeLallo for a 4-2 lead.
“This shows we can do it, so every member on the team will just be more amped to go hit and play,” McKeen said.
Elko (4-14 overall) took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning with its only extra-base hit. Suyematsu doubled down the right-field line with one out and took third on a wild pitch. He scored on John Craner’s fielder’s choice.
South Tahoe came right back with two runs in its half of the first. Four Indians’ errors enabled Ricky Braun and Casey to cross the plate for a 2-1 lead.
DeLallo settled down, retiring 15 of the next 16 Elko hitters – nine on strikes. Many of the Indians had trouble catching up to DeLallo’s fastball, which topped out at 89 mph, according to Amaral.
“We started taking some strikes and moving up in the box to frazzle him a little bit. But he was just around the plate all-day long with his fastball, and he did a good job keeping our guys off balance with some offspeed pitches,” Gilligan said.
After South Tahoe stranded two baserunners and had another thrown out at third base in the fifth, Elko used the momentum shift to scratch across the tying run in the sixth. A four-pitch free pass to Suyematsu with one out was a sign of more trouble to follow. DeLallo’s errant pickoff throw moved Suyematsu into scoring position, and Craner took advantage with a RBI single to left. Davis followed with an infield hit, but the Vikings escaped further damage on first basemann McKeen’s unassisted out.
The Vikings opened the three-day event with a 12-2 loss to McQueen on Wednesday, even though the outcome didn’t count against the their tournament record. Rigel Garman blasted a two-run double for the Vikings.
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