South Tahoe holds off Sparks 6-5 in Babe Ruth state opener
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — South Tahoe wanted badly to win its opener at the Babe Ruth 13-15 State All-Star Tournament — and did what it took to secure a narrow win. The hosts held off Sparks 6-5 in the first round of the tournament Thursday night at Todd Fields Park, withstanding a late rally en route to victory.
“You have to win game one — you have to do everything you can to win the first game,” South Tahoe manager Ryan Schouten said. “If you get in the loser’s bracket, it’s such an uphill battle.”
South Tahoe opened up a 6-1 lead after five innings in the tournament opener and looked like it would roll to victory. But Sparks didn’t make it that easy, starting with a two-run homer in the top of the sixth that made it a three-run game.
“We had to hang on — it was tough,” Schouten said.
After South Tahoe went scoreless in the bottom of the sixth, Sparks continued its rally. The visitors put their first two batters aboard with a single and an error against South Tahoe reliever Kevin Lehmann, and a delayed steal during the next at-bat made it 6-4.
Following a one-out walk, Schouten pulled a rare move seeking the final two outs. South Tahoe’s manager put starting pitcher Chris Pfister back into the game, who pitched the first five frames and allowed one run with seven strikeouts.
With two on base, Pfister gave up a single in the next at-bat that made it 6-5 — but after narrowly missing the tag at home, South Tahoe catcher Peyton Galli fired to third to nab Sparks’ potential game-tying runner for the inning’s second out. Pfister struck out the next batter to lift South Tahoe to victory and advance into the winner’s bracket.
“We had to win, so he came back in and finished the job for us — that was amazing,” Schouten said. “We went back to the ace and we did what we had to do to win.”
South Tahoe made the most of its offensive chances in Thursday’s victory, scoring its six runs on only three hits. The hosts took a 2-0 lead in the first by capitalizing on a pair of Sparks errors in the first to score Galli and shortstop Kyle Dane.
In the bottom of the third, South Tahoe broke the game open with four runs to take a 6-1 lead. Lehmann, Dane, Pfister and first baseman Alexander Kasper all scored as part of a one-out rally capped by an RBI groundout from left fielder Cameron Johnson.
“We smallballed them a little bit — the outfield was playing us so deep that we were just trying to play the ball through the infield and just couldn’t get it going,” Schouten said. “We ran a lot, put some pressure on their defense and they gave us a few runs early.”
South Tahoe returned to action with a 10-0 win over Fallon on Friday night — on Saturday it will meet South Reno, who beat Sun Valley in the first round. The double-elimination tournament concludes Sunday at Todd Fields Park.
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