Vikings’ swagger returns in time for playoff push
By Douglas Etten
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Jake Braun isn’t accustomed to being on the opposite end of a pitch the way he was Wednesday night, but it was hard to tell. The entire South Tahoe team isn’t accustomed to downing a league-leader.
Both ways went against the norm Wednesday night in South Lake as Braun, a catcher by trade, didn’t waiver when, with a one-run lead and the tying run in scoring position, head coach Rich Rubel called his name.
The STHS junior coaxed a twisting ground ball off the bat of Tyler Dresbach, and when the groundout to second was completed, the Vikings’ 8-7 win signified what very well could be a switch in the momentum to their end-of-the-season run.
“Most of these guys have never beaten a top-seeded team in a league before, so tonight was a big win for not just these kids, but our program as a whole,” Regan said. “We really had a plan coming into the game that we knew Jake caught the night before, and we wanted to get his legs some rest going into the weekend double header.
“Dom[minic Diana] had gotten about five starts for us this season, so we knew we’d be able to count on him back there.”
With Braun closing the door and Diana taking care of the catching duties, the defensive show on the infield was headlined by shortstop Bobby Oakes.
“Bobby played, without a doubt, the best game I’ve ever seen him play at shortstop,” Rubel said. “He kept us in that game, turning not one, not two, but three double plays for us up the middle. Those were just huge. Two of them especially because they came with the bases loaded.”
The team now heads into Sparks Saturday with a concerted effort to take two games from their league-leading rival. Doing so would punch its ticket to the NIAA postseason as the second of two 3A teams to come from the Mount Rose league. It’s been 16-years since South Tahoe has made the playoffs, and if they can sweep two at Sparks it will be one more reason to celebrate a successful first season for Rubel at the helm.
Going in game one Saturday will be right hander Jamie Yelles. The senior has been the go-to-guy on the mound for Rubel and he expects anothe solid start out of his hurler.
“Jamie is one of the strongest seniors on this team,” he said. “I expect he’ll come out like he always does and compete to the best of his ability.”
Game one Saturday is set for 11 a.m. in Sparks with the second game to follow around 1 p.m.
The Vikings on Wednesday were again led at the plate by Rigel Garman. He had half of the teams hits out of the leadoff spot where he was three for four on the afternoon, finishing with three runs scored and two batted in. Derek Clelan was two for four on the day. Both went for three bases. He also scored one run. Colton Marchesseault had the team’s only other hit, a sixth inning triple.
Andrew Contaxis got the start on the hill for South Tahoe and earned the win. He went into the third before giving way to Tyler Sharp who worked into the sixth when Braun came on to earn the save.
Just a day after an emotional loss to rival Whittell, Rubel called his team out in the second inning after they went ahead 1-0, but had begun to boot the ball around defensively again.
“All I said was, ‘c’mon guys, can’t we take a lead and hold it?’ They responded.”
Garman got things going in the first as he led of the game with a single. After he moved to second on a passed ball, he scored when Braun’s grounder to short was mishandled, making it 1-0 South Tahoe.
Sparks answered in the top half of the second. Martin Jordan started things off with a single, then moved to second on one-out walk issued to Jared Longland. Consecutive passed balls on South Tahoe’s end allowed Jordan to score, then a fielders choice grounder from Quinn Lightfoot plated Longland to make it 2-1 Sparks.
Lightfoot then stole second which put him in scoring position when Leonel Abundis roped an RBI single which made it 3-1 Sparks before starting Vikings’ pitcher Contaxis got a fly ball to center to end the half-inning.
South Tahoe came back and answered then in its half of the second as back-to-back walks at the bottom of the order put Bobby Oakes and Contaxis aboard with one away. Garman then delivered again as he roped a liner to left-center which plated Oakes and made it 3-2 Sparks.
Dillon Mckeen came up next. He rolled into a fielder’s choice which force Garman out at second but put runners on the corners for Braun. After a passed ball allowed Contaxis to score and Mckeen to move up a base, Braun drew a walk which kept two on for Cody Higgins. His blast to center was misplayed, and it opened the flood gates as Contaxis and Braun scored to make it 5-3 South Tahoe going into the third.
Sparks managed one back there which made it 5-4 Vikings. Insurance was in high demand however and the home team got it in the form of two runs, sparked by a leadoff triple from Clelan. Dominic Diana went down on strikes, but reached as the ball in the dirt made it to the backstop. It also allowed Clelan to score from third and made it 6-4 South Tahoe. It worked once, and it worked as well the second time as after Contaxis struck out he reached first on a dropped third strike. That brought up Garman who looked to have rolled into an inning-ending double play. The relay was perfect, but the throw to first was mishandled, allowing Diana to score and making it 7-4 South Tahoe after the fourth.
Sparks got one more back in the top of five, assisted tww STHS walks and one error. The damage could have been much worse, but Oakes made a fantastic play at short which started a 6-4-3 double play and got the Vikings away with just giving up the one run.
They got that run back in the bottom of the fifth when Garman singled for the third time on the night. He was forced across on the next at bat as Colton Marchesseault laced a triple into the right-center field gap to make it 8-5 South Lake.
Sparks threatened again in the sixth as the put runners on first and second with one out. Oakes ruined the party though once again as he snagged another tough ground ball, stepped on second and fired across to first to arouse the stands and put Tahoe back in the dugout still up by three.
A two-out triple off the bat of Clelan looked to be the start of another run scoring inning, but a hard ground ball from Diana was put out and things turned over to the defense in the top of the seventh.
Vikings pitcher Tyler Sparks had been called upon in the middle innings, and worked his way into the seventh where he ran into a bit of trouble. After Jordan led off with a single, Sparks got Joe Christ to fly out to right to put one away. Jared Longland came up next though and punched a one-out double to left-center which put runners on second and third for Lightfoot. Sparks sat him down on strikes to put two away, then worked a full count to Kirk Putman before the Sparks senior laced a two-run double to bring the visitors to within a run.
That’s when Rubel called upon Braun who used just four pitches to get the end of the game grounder.