South Tahoe baseball rallies past Dayton 10-7, wins seventh straight
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — The South Tahoe baseball team extended its winning streak to seven games Tuesday — and needed a pair of comebacks to do it. The Vikings beat Dayton 10-7 at Todd Fields Park in their first mid-week game of the season, rallying after spotting the Dust Devils an early five-run lead.
“It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” Vikings head coach Starbuck Teevan said. “We got down early, but this is another sign of this team — there’s a lot of fight in this team, we don’t quit and we battle back.”
Before its first at-bat Tuesday, South Tahoe (9-6, 7-3 I-A Northern) found itself in a 5-0 hole. Dayton (3-7) got to Vikings starter Caleb Russell in the top of the first with four straight hits, eventually chasing the right-hander as part of a five-run frame.
“The message was that it’s a long game — I told them that last time I checked, we play seven innings,” Teevan said. “We had a lot of work ahead of us and just had to peck away.”
Still trailing by five in the bottom of the second, the Vikings began their first comeback of the contest with a two-out rally. With two runners on, left fielder Logan Brewer drew a walk to load the bases for first baseman Kolby Eymann.
Eymann singled through the right side of the infield on a 1-0 pitch, a hit that scored two runs and got South Tahoe on the board. A bases-loaded walk to shortstop Dakota Lynch two batters later made it 5-3, then center fielder Garret Harley hit a two-run single up the middle to tie the game.
“Once we got those runs back we had the momentum on our side,” Teevan said. “We could have rolled over and died, but we didn’t — we showed some fight.”
Five straight Vikings reached safely with two outs in the second to pull the hosts even. But a half-inning later, South Tahoe found itself trailing again.
With two outs in the top of the third, Dayton shortstop Dylan Baker put the Dust Devils back in front with a two-run homer to left field off of Harley. The freshman’s first career hit cleared the fences to give the visitors a 7-5 lead.
Dayton held that two-run lead until the fifth, when the bottom of South Tahoe’s lineup came through to give the hosts the lead. With one out, right fielder Paul Hoefer hit an RBI single up the middle that scored Harley — and a throwing error by the Dust Devils’ center fielder allowed designated hitter River Quinn to score and tie the game.
Two batters later, Brewer lined the first pitch he faced for a single that scored Hoefer from second and gave South Tahoe its first lead of the game. Lynch capped the rally with a run-scoring single that extended the Vikings’ lead to 9-7.
“We had big hits from the guys in the bottom half of the lineup — sometimes the top half can’t always carry the team and you have to have contributions from everybody,” Teevan said.
Lynch threw his third straight scoreless inning of relief in the top of the sixth, then South Tahoe tacked on another run. Quinn led off the bottom of the sixth with a single, stole second to get in scoring position and scored with one out on a single from Hoefer — the junior’s fourth opposite-field hit of the contest.
“Coach always says that we don’t need heroes, we need baserunners — you don’t have to hit the ball hard to have a good hit,” Hoefer said. “I came up clutch in those situations — I did my best to keep the team going and it turned out to be a great day.”
The Vikings took a 10-7 lead into the top of the seventh, and survived one last push from Dayton to seal the win. Following a leadoff triple by Jarret Reed, a stellar defensive play quickly gave South Tahoe two outs and the momentum.
Dust Devils second baseman Michael Selmi flew out to Hoefer in shallow right field on the third pitch of the next at-bat, and Reed tagged up from third. Hoefer threw a strike to home plate, and catcher Aaron Pfister spun to his left and made a diving tag to complete the double play.
“The first thing that went through my mind was that he wasn’t going to go,” Hoefer said. “I saw him take off, I threw it — it was that perfect throw — and I saw Aaron catch it and go for the tag.”
“After that it just seemed like we had the game in our hands,” Lynch added.
Dayton’s next two batters reached safely, putting the potential game-tying run at the plate. But on Lynch’s first pitch to Dust Devils left fielder Mason Haines, he forced a ground ball that resulted in a fielder’s choice to end the game.
“Once you start winning, you gain that momentum and you keep going,” Hoefer said. “It’s a great feeling to just keep winning.”
Lynch (W, 4-1) threw four scoreless innings in relief to pick up the victory. The senior scattered four hits and a walk while striking out one — he retired seven of the first eight Dayton batters he faced, including a one-two-three fifth.
“I just wanted to get in and get out — get my team some ground balls and some easy outs,” Lynch said. “We really wanted this one.”
Hoefer led South Tahoe with four hits as part of an 11-hit attack — he finished 4-for-4 with two doubles, three RBIs and two runs. Harley went 2-for-4 with two RBIs in the win — Eymann and Lynch each had a hit and two RBIs.
South Tahoe’s comeback win ended on a bittersweet note, as it marked Quinn’s last game as a Viking. The senior had season-ending surgery to repair a torn ligament in his throwing arm Thursday — in 15 games this season, he hit .372 with 15 RBIs, nine runs and three stolen bases.
“He’ll still be here and we’ll still look to him for leadership, but in the lineup we’re losing a big bat,” Teevan said. “It’s definitely tough for him and we’re going to miss his bat in the lineup.”
The Vikings return to action Friday, when they put their seven-game winning streak on the line in a three-game series at Lowry (4-9, 2-7). First pitch for Friday’s series opener is scheduled for 3 p.m. — Saturday’s doubleheader starts at 11 a.m.
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