Avalanche wins tournament opener
South Lake Tahoe’s representative in the Fourth of July baseball tournament hasn’t been this excited about their prospects of winning the title in a long time.
Hot off their Sparks tournament title last weekend, the Tahoe Avalanche opened their 10th annual Fourth of July Invitational by blasting Belmont, Calif., 10-7 at Todd Fields.
“If we play like this the rest of the tournament I’m pretty confident we’ll be in the championship game. But we definitely have to play our top-notch A ball to be there,” said Avalanche coach David Santee.
Tahoe, 11-8, started slowly, as Belmont led off the game with a homer against Bret Uppendahl.
However, Uppendahl didn’t allow any more damage until the sixth inning.
In the meantime, Bruce Jacobson, a product of Douglas High, took over. Jacobson stroked a run-scoring double in the fourth inning and crushed a two-run homer in the fifth inning that nearly hit the top of the light pole in right field.
“He hit that one so well I thought it was going to hit the lights,” Santee said of Jacobson’s two-strike homer.
By scoring three runs in each of the third, fourth and fifth innings, Tahoe took a commanding 9-1 lead.
Uppendahl tired in the sixth inning, allowing a two-run shot and another run as Belmont came back to 9-4. Santee lifted “Uppy” after the sixth inning and inserted new left-handed reliever Brandon Tretton.
“Bret was leaving the ball up just a bit today, but just him being who he is, he battles when he’s in there. He just wills himself to win,” Santee said.
Uppendahl, who fired a three-hitter and struck out 14 in his previous outing, fanned eight and allowed seven hits in six innings.
Tretton failed to retire the four batters he faced in the seventh, allowing a run and leaving with the bases loaded.
But Kenny Nicoll closed the door, allowing a two-run single before finishing the job.
“(Thursday) is the most important game of the tournament. You don’t want to take a chance and lose one game. If you lose the first game, their heads will be dropping and then you don’t think you have a chance,” Santee said.
Jacobson led the South Tahoe Refuse-sponsored Avalanche with three hits, and Chad Cooke went 2 for 2 with two runs. Matt Tretton launched an RBI double and Nicholl collected three RBIs.
Greg Bruso, who just finished his freshman pitching campaign at UC-Davis, will throw against Palo Alto at 6 p.m. Friday. Bruso tossed a four-hitter and fanned 11 in Tahoe’s title-clinching 5-3 victory over the Tribe I in Sparks.
Justin Ray will pitch the third game against Fairfield at noon Sunday.
If the pitching comes through like it has lately, Santee is confident his team has enough offense and defense to win their pool. The Avalanche is grouped with Belmont, Fairfield and Palo Alto.
Tahoe’s leading hitters through 18 games of the Senior Babe Ruth/Connie Mack season is Nathan Coats with .500 batting average. Close behind are Matt Tretton, .429 and 12 RBIs; Nate Muren, .422; Austin Merritt, the No. hitter in the lineup is hitting .368 with a team-leading 14 RBIs; and Thrace Ramsey, .358 and 11 RBIs.
The two pool winners will advance to Sunday’s 10 a.m. championship game.
“With the 18- and 19-year-olds coming there is going to be high-level baseball up here, and we’re just encouraging the whole community to come out and see what America’s favorite pastime is all about on the Fourth of July,” Santee said.
Tournament passes are $7 for adults, while daily admission is $3. All children under 18 can see the games for free.
Avalanche Notes: Catcher Carson Triggs caught all four games in the Jason Cork Memorial Baseball Tournament last weekend, picking off four players and catching three runners trying to steal in one of the games. “He was just on fire, and by (Sunday’s) last game no one was running on him,” Santee said. Nicoll, a shortstop, second baseman Cooke and Triggs were selected to the all-tournament team, while the hot-hitting Nate Muren was chosen as the tournament’s MVP.
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