South Tahoe baseball haunted by missed chances in 5-2 loss to Dayton at Greater Nevada Field
RENO, Nev. — The South Tahoe baseball team has struggled to produce timely hits throughout the season, and it was no different on the big stage at the home of the Triple-A Reno Aces. The Vikings fell to Dayton 5-2 at Greater Nevada Field on Tuesday, May 3, stranding 14 runners on the way to losing the Div. I-A Northern League rubber match.
“A few mistakes were the difference in the game,” Vikings coach Starbuck Teevan said. “They got the clutch hits and we didn’t.”
The loss left South Tahoe (8-17, 8-12 I-A Northern) a half-game up on Lowry for the league’s last playoff spot. For Dayton (16-9, 12-9), the victory secured the program’s first postseason berth since 2011.
“It’s the first time that we’ve played a game here that meant something towards playoffs,” Teevan said. “Dayton is a tough opponent and they’ve been playing well. They’re playing really good baseball and we caught them at the wrong time.”
The Vikings started quickly Tuesday, jumping out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. Senior Paul Hoefer led off the game with a double and scored two batters later on an RBI single from Will Mori. South Tahoe had runners on first and third with no outs, but ultimately left both aboard with three straight outs.
“Our mistakes and not taking advantage of our opportunities — especially early in the game — is what hurt us,” Teevan said.
Dayton took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the first on an error and sacrifice fly, and South Tahoe answered in the next half-inning to tie things up. Senior Josh Sullivan hit a one-out double to center field and scored in the next at-bat when junior Ben Bushrow singled through the right side of the infield.
The game stayed tied after a scoreless third inning; and after Dayton starter Isaac Von Schoff kept the top of the Vikings’ lineup in check, the Dust Devils reclaimed the lead. Dayton put its first four batters aboard in the bottom of the fourth, and went ahead 4-2 on run-scoring hits from Gage Duke and Zach Woitas.
South Tahoe appeared poised to answer in the top of the fifth after freshman Kevin Lehmann hit a leadoff single and senior Justin Ruger reached on a fielding error. Then Dayton produced an improbable defensive play to end the threat.
Senior Caleb Russell lined a 1-1 shot toward right field that Woitas snagged with a leaping catch. The Dust Devils quickly doubled off South Tahoe’s runners at second and first for a triple play that crushed the Vikings.
“Those guys on base thought that ball was going to fall,” Teevan said. “It was a great play by the second baseman and definitely a momentum shift.”
Dayton added to its lead in the bottom of the fifth on a South Tahoe miscue. With two outs, Vikings sophomore starter Chris Pfister struck out Dayton’s Dylan Baker but the third strike was dropped — on the ensuing throw to first Sullivan fired high and forced Russell off the bag, allowing a run to score that made it 5-2.
“They took that momentum and ended up scoring a few runs,” Teevan said.
South Tahoe had two runners on base in both the sixth and seventh, but came away empty each time. In the top of the seventh the Vikings had runners on first and second with one out, but Dayton’s Trevor Burrows got Russell to ground into a game-ending double play.
“That’s kind of a microcosm of our season,” Teevan said. “When we need the big hits, we haven’t gotten them.”
Hoefer went 2-for-3 with a double and a run in Tuesday’s loss while Ruger was 2-for-4. Mori and Bushrow each had a hit and an RBI and Sullivan went 1-for-2 with a double and a run.
Pfister threw 5.0 innings, allowing five runs (three earned) on eight hits with five strikeouts and a walk. Senior Moises Cuevas pitched 1.0 innings of scoreless relief, scattering a walk.
“Chris threw a great game, did exactly what we needed him to do and kept us in the game the whole time,” Teevan said.
For Dayton, Jacob Nelson went 2-for-3 with a run — the Dust Devils finished with eight hits and left three runners on base. Von Schoff allowed two runs on nine hits with three strikeouts and four walks over 6.0 innings.
South Tahoe moved up its three-game weekend series at Spring Creek to avoid potential inclement weather. The Vikings opened the series with an 11-0 loss to the Spartans on Wednesday, May 4, and wrapped up the set with a doubleheader Thursday, May 5.
“We control our own destiny,” Teevan said. “If we can win a game or two out of our last four, it puts us in a good position.”