Vikings win final home game
In their final home inning of the season Tuesday, the South Tahoe High baseball team executed like a club destined for the playoffs.
Reliever Greg Bruso pitched out of bases loaded, no-out jam in the top of the seventh. Then in bottom half of the inning, Greg Gerken delivered a game-winning single after Chris Barna moved Bruso into scoring position with a bunt as the Vikings squeaked past Lowry 4-3 at the South Tahoe Babe Ruth Field.
Although the junior-laden Vikings are out of the playoff picture, they sure didn’t play like it, winning their third straight game.
“They went out in style. I was really happy that the seniors went out with a win in their last home game,” said Viking coach Ralph Clelan.
Viking starter Bret Uppendahl was sailing along until the seventh inning when the Buckaroos loaded the bases without hitting the ball out of the infield.
“Uppy pitched great, but I left him in a batter too long. He pitched ahead in the count all day long and made great 0-2 pitches,” Clelan said.
Needing to strike out the side to win the game, Clelan called on Bruso, a hard-throwing junior. With the game resting on his shoulders, Bruso revealed that the toughest pitching assignment in baseball isn’t one he relished.
“Not really. There’s a lot of pressure,” he said. “I was concentrating on trying to throw strikes and ground balls. And I couldn’t afford to walk anybody.”
Nonetheless, Bruso showed nothing but poise and command.
After left fielder Scott Souers ran down a deep drive by Jason Davidsaver, resulting in the tying run crossing the plate, Bruso struck out the next two hitters swinging.
“Bruso’s at his best when it’s all on his shoulders,” said Clelan, who along with three other Viking coaches high-fived Bruso as he came off the mound.
“I was glad Greg was able to do it because without him we wouldn’t have won,” said Uppendahl, who struck out nine while allowing 11 hits.
Relieved that Lowry only tied the score, the Vikings quickly manufactured the winning run.
Figuring mightily in the winning rally was towering catcher Chris Barna, who hadn’t been called upon to sacrifice bunt in three varsity seasons – until Tuesday. After Lowry’s Matt Christensen beaned Bruso to start the Viking seventh, cleanup hitter Barna was called upon to give himself up for the team.
“It’s just baseball. I knew it was coming, so I put it down the line. Besides, Gerken was next and he’s been hitting the ball well,” Barna said.
“We do it in practice every day. Coach has us lay down the first two and then we take batting practice.”
After falling behind Gerken in the count, Christensen grooved a 2-0 pitch that Gerken deposited down the left-field line. Bruso could have jogged in from second with the winning run.
“I was just trying to make something happen. I was trying to go to the right side, but it was an inside pitch,” Gerken said. “It’s pretty special with it being our final home game and my senior year. It felt good. It’s something I’ll definitely remember.”
Uppendahl gave Lowry few good pitches to hit, frustrating hitters with his precise location on the corners.
“I had good location (Tuesday). I got a little lucky on the corners; it was a pitcher’s umpire,” said Uppendahl, who struck out five Buckaroos looking.
South Tahoe took a 1-0 lead in the first as Bruso plated Adam Heggan with an RBI single. The Vikings added two more runs in the second on a Scott Fair single and three Buckaroo errors.
But Lowry chipped away, scoring once in the third on Dustin Christean’s RBI-infield single, then another in the fourth on Dustin Putnam’s RBI double.
“It’s so great. All the other years we got smashed up here to end the year,” said Barna, who only days ago signed a letter of intent to play ball for University of California State-San Bernardino, the same school where Viking graduate Levi Funderburk starred.
Gerken and Heggan led the Vikings’ 10-hit attack with three singles. Fair contributed two hits.
South Tahoe, 11-18 overall and 7-15 in the Northern Nevada League, closes its season with a doubleheader Saturday at McQueen.
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