South Tahoe All-Stars a game away from advancing |

South Tahoe All-Stars a game away from advancing

Rick Chandler

RENO – On the field that the minor league Reno Blackjacks call home, South Lake Tahoe found a pair of winning aces.

Ryan Cullen pitched a strong game, and Chris Hannum pitched an inning and a third of no-hit relief to lead South Lake Tahoe over Carson City, 12-6 in eight innings, to take a 1-0 lead in their best-of-three Babe Ruth playoff series on Monday.

He had to feel a little like Rob Nenn or Dennis Eckersley. There was Hannum, taking the mound in relief in the bottom of the seventh, two out, runners on first and second and the game on the line.

And this wasn’t just any game. South Lake Tahoe was all locked up with Carson City, 6-6, in the their babe Ruth League 16-year-old All-Star Preliminary Regional Tournament game at Moana Municipal Stadium in Reno.

But instead of bowing to the pressure under the the lights at the spacious

park, Hannum came through in a big way. He got the final out in the seventh

on a strikeout, stranding two Carson City runners. Then, South Shore struck

for six runs in the top of the eighth to take the 12-6 lead.

“I knew if I could do my part, we would find a way to come back,” said

Hannum, who just turned 16 last week. “We’re a comeback team. We have a lot

of heart.”

Even after being handed the big lead, Hannum had to calm the Carson City bats

in the eighth, and it was no cinch that would happen. In Babe Ruth games,

six-run leads are not usually safe.

But they are with Hannum, who pitched for the South Tahoe High varsity this

season despite being only 15. He struck out the first batter he faced in the

eighth, then walked the second, but the third hitter hit a grounder toward

the hole between first and second base, and the ball hit the runner. That was

the second out. Hannum them got the next batter to hit a slow roller to the

left of the mound. Hannum pounced on the ball, straightened up and threw a

bullet to first — his best strike of the evening — to record the final out.

Hannum has an interesting way of making sure that he keeps the momentum.

Before certain important pitches, he paces around the mound, appearing to

talk to himself.

“It’s a way to throw off the batter,” he said. “In my mind, it puts things in

my time frame, not his.”

South Lake Tahoe can now go in for the kill, taking on Carson City again tonight at 5 p.m. at Moana. If Tahoe wins, it advances to the Regional Tournament in Bakersfield. And that’s one step away from the Babe Ruth World Series.

South Tahoe began its winning rally in the top of the eighth on T.J. Prevost’s double to right field. Cory Poulen, who had entered the game in the fifth as a pinch hitter, then singled him to third. Anthony Miranda’s safety squeeze bunt scored Prevost with the go-ahead run — all the offense South Tahoe would need.

But they weren’t through. A triple by Mike Hennessy and doubles by Ryan Hickey and Hannum were the highlights in the six-run outburst. All but one of the runs was unearned.

Cullen pitched extremely well, except for the fourth inning, when he gave up five runs on four hits. South Tahoe also made two errors on the fourth.

Cullen also gave up a run in the fifth, but settled down to retire six batters in a row. He then surrendered two walks in the seventh after two were out, bringing on Hannum.

“I kind of feel like a relief pitcher now,” Hannum said. “It’s the second time I’ve done this in the playoffs. But I kind of like it.”

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