It was hardly a spring day at Todd Fields, but Steven Gerken warmed up South Tahoe High baseball fans with a pair of long home runs Tuesday in a nonleague game with Dayton.
Gerken smashed two- and three-run homers and knocked in six runs, but the Vikings lost to Dayton for the second time in three 2002 meetings, 10-8.
"It felt good, but a win would have been better than two home runs," said Gerken of his first varsity home runs.
Todd Fields isn't considered a power hitter's park, so Gerken's feat wasn't lost on manager Doug Russell.
"It's not often that you see balls hit that hard, especially on days when the ball isn't carrying," Russell said.
Dayton preceded Gerken's home-run barrage by racking up a 10-2 lead in the fourth inning. Sophomore Matt Bowman blasted a two-run homer in the first inning and added a two-run double during a six-run fourth.
"He's already good and he's only going to get better," said Dayton skipper Craig Miller of his young star.
Bowman's bat didn't do all of his talking. He replaced starting pitcher Adam Diament after Diament walked Shawn McLaughlin following Gerken's towering three-run blast over the fence in left-center in the fifth. The change stemmed the Vikings' comeback, even though Gerken got in one last shot during the last half of the seventh.
With Peter Maes perched on third base, Gerken lined a ball off Bowman's shin, allowing Maes to cross the plate. It was Gerken's third hit of the game.
"He was in a zone," Miller said. "I was telling our guys afterward that when you're in such a zone the ball looks like a beach ball. Even that last hit, he hit the ball hard."
The gritty Bowman, however, remained on the mound and saved the win by retiring the final Viking hitter on strikes.
"It was a tense situation, but I had Matt on the mound, and I'm very confident that he can get the job done for us," Miller said.
McLaughlin relieved Viking starter Manny Herrera late in the pivotal fourth and kept his team in the game by throwing 3 1/3 shutout innings.
"Coming in, I was thinking that I didn't want to give up any runs. I wanted to keep us in the ball game," McLaughlin said. "In the beginning, my changeup was really working, but then I was hitting spots mostly because my arm was starting to die."
After Bowman's roundtripper gave the Dust Devils a 2-0 lead in the first inning, the Vikings evened the score by scratching across a run in each of the first two frames. Chris Smith scored on a delayed steal of home in the first and Smith singled in Gerken in the second.
But Dayton went ahead 4-2 in the third inning and blew open the game with the benefit of two STHS errors and a misplayed line drive during the six-run fourth. The key error occurred with one out when Herrera handled a bunt and threw accurately to the second baseman covering first, but the ball was dropped.
"Physical errors are going to happen, but we didn't get ourselves mentally into the game until the fourth inning," Russell said. "I was disappointed that the guys weren't ready to play seven innings and Dayton was."
The Vikings pulled out a thrilling 9-8 win over Dayton in the junior varsity game. Chris Thorne's two-run single tied the score in the seventh inning and Randy Henson's RBI single won it.
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