Vikings fight back to win regional baseball championship |

Vikings fight back to win regional baseball championship

The South Tahoe Vikings pose after capturing the Class 3A Northern Region championship.
Justin Scacco /

RENO, Nev. — The South Tahoe baseball team hoisted the Class 3A Northern League crown on Saturday after knocking off rivals Truckee and Churchill County.

After coming from behind in the tournament to claim the regional title, the Vikings will now head south to Virgin Valley in search of the program’s first state championship.

“We’ve been together since we were 10 years old. It’s this goal we’ve always strived for to get to state and hopefully get that ring,” said senior Joel Gomez. “We’ve just got to be ourselves. We can’t try to overdo it. If we go down there and be ourselves, nothing can stop us. We are a great team.”

The Vikings entered this week’s Class 3A Northern Region Baseball Playoffs at Wooster High School as the top seed, having gone 15-0 in league play during the regular season. South Tahoe, however, struggled in their opener of the six-team, double elimination tournament and dropped a 4-1 contest on Thursday to Churchill County.

Head Coach Mark Shehadi cited a lack of discipline at the plate as the key reason the Vikings lost the game and fell into the loser’s bracket. Having been upset a year ago in the regional tournament, the Vikings entered the following games determined to reach a goal many on the team have had since first playing little league together roughly a decade ago.

“Our heads were down after we lost that first game, but we battled all the way back,” said senior first baseman Christopher Haven. “We’ve been playing together for so long. The team chemistry is there and we all have trust in each other. We believe in each other at all times.”

Facing elimination, South Tahoe and Elko hit the field on Friday. After falling behind 6-3 going into the final inning, the Vikings took advantage of the Indians struggles from the mound, scoring four runs in the bottom of the seventh to keep their season alive. South Tahoe then took a 5-3 win against Spring Creek later that day to set up a game against Truckee on Saturday morning.

With a trip to the state tournament on the line, the Vikings jumped out to an early 1-0 lead when Haven scored on a throwing error.

Truckee evened the game when a run was walked home in the top of the third inning. South Tahoe avoided any further damage in the inning by catching a ball drove to right field, and tossing the runner at first out for a double play to end the inning.

In the bottom of the fifth inning, Gomez knocked in the go-ahead run, hitting a sacrifice fly to deep left field to give South Tahoe a 2-1 lead.

In the top of the seventh inning, Truckee’s leadoff hitter reached second base with no outs. Senior pitcher Ian Ross then managed to strike out the next batter. The next Truckee batter hit a line drive to senior second baseman Garrett Friederici, who promptly tossed the ball to senior shortstop Forrest Jones to get the runner at second out and end the Wolverines’ season.

“For some reason we always play Truckee really, really tight,” said Coach Shehadi. “These kids just know each other so well and it was a crazy one-run baseball game. They’re the cardiac kids. They’ve done it all year. We’ve won one- and two-run baseball games all year long.”

South Tahoe celebrates after topping Truckee on Saturday.
Justin Scacco /

The win advanced South Tahoe to the state tournament and set the team up for a championship game against Churchill County. The Greenwave, having gone undefeated through the tournament needed a win to capture the league title; while South Tahoe would need to take a pair of wins against Churchill County to claim the championship.

The Vikings jumped on the Greenwave early on in the first game, building a 5-0 edge going into the third inning. Churchill County responded with runs in the next four innings, but were unable to slow the South Tahoe offense as the Vikings forced a decisive final game behind a 14-6 win.

Heading into their third game of the day and fifth contest in two days, Coach Shehadi said he was concerned about the team’s bullpen, and after giving up three runs in the top of the second, it appeared the Vikings quest for a regional championship had run out of steam.

Instead, it would be Churchill County struggling from the mound. Senior JR Elizalde got things going with by knocking in a run in the bottom of the second inning. Churchill County then hit two straight batters followed by a wild pitch that allowed a run to cross the plate. Another hit batter evened the game at 3-3 with the bases loaded and no outs.

The Greenwave called on a reliever, but that pitcher walked in a pair of runs, prompting Churchill County to call upon another hurler. Senior Nico Wagner then hit a fly ball to left-center field that found the grass fro another run. A sacrifice fly in the next at-bat gave South Tahoe a 7-3 edge.

From there, Elizalde returned to the plate and slapped a two-run double down the first base line. South Tahoe would later score again on a wild pitch to gain an 11-3 edge. Gomez then came to the plate and lined a two-run double to center field, forcing the Greenwave to again go to their bullpen.

An error at first base followed by a throwing error pushed South Tahoe’s lead to 15-3. Junior Jonathan Bender then drove a single up the middle for another run. South Tahoe continued to take advantage of Churchill County miscues, scoring on another passed ball in the next at-bat, and then adding two more runs on an error in center field.

After 19 runs scored in the bottom of the second inning, the Greenwave mercifully found the final out of the frame.

After securing two outs in the top of the third inning, Friederici hauled in the final out of the game, giving South Tahoe a 19-3 win and the league championship via the 15-run mercy rule.

Garrett Friederici squeezes the final out against Churchill County to give South Tahoe the league title.
Justin Scacco /

“This means so much,” said senior pitcher Evan Orr. “We’ve been dominating this league since sophomore year and we’ve missed the chance to go to state for different reasons. We’ve grown so close as a family and to be able to do it while it’s most of our senior years means so much. It’s our last chance and we’re doing it.”

The Vikings captured the regional title in 2021, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, not state tournament was held that year. South Tahoe came into last year’s tournament as the top seed but were eliminated after their first two games of the regional tournament.

“When we play our game, nobody in the league can beat us, nobody in the state can beat us,” added Orr. “I love this team, I love this group, and we are going to go do it”

The Class 3A State Baseball Playoffs will get underway Thursday at Virgin Valley High School. South Tahoe will face the Southern League’s second seed, Virgin Valley to open the double-elimination tournament. Churchill County will play Southern League champions Pahrump Valley.

“We can’t wait to represent our school, South Lake Tahoe, and all of the student body at South Tahoe High School and administration,” concluded Coach Shehadi. “It’s an honor to represent them.”

Justin Scacco /
Justin Scacco /
Justin Scacco /
Justin Scacco /
Justin Scacco /

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