RENO - The one thing about winning streaks, is sooner or later they have to come to an end.
Galena High's baseball team had put together a phenomenal 17-game winning streak to win the High Desert championship and get to the NIAA 4A regional finals, but the Grizzlies' Cinderella-like run ended in ugly fashion Saturday.
Spanish Springs scored five times in the first inning, and Steve Abina made that stand up with a nifty five-hitter, as the Cougars won their first-ever regional title, 13-3, at Reno High School.
The game was stopped after 4 1/2 innings because of the 10-run rule.
"I'm proud of these kids," said Galena coach Gary McNamara, whose team was 4-9 at one point this year. "We won 17 games in a row, and we had to win all 17 games. We had two or three weeks of playoff games. I think it took its toll and we ran out of gas.
"We accomplished things that we shouldn't have (because of youth and inexperience) gotten done. That's why I'm proud. Our goal, no matter what, is to win the state championship. We had a bad day."
Another thing that made McNamara proud was he recognized Spanish Springs as an immensely talented team, and his young band of warriors won the league ahead of the Cougars. It means that the rest of the High Desert teams better watch out for the Grizzlies in the coming years.
But yesterday belonged to Spanish Springs. When the Cougars took the field for their pre-game warm-up, they did a "phantom" infield and outfield, meaning no baseballs were used and the players went through fielding and throwing motions.
There was nothing phantom about the Cougars' play. Every starter connected for at least one hit, Abina pitched a strong game in only his second start of the season and the defense made two meaningless errors. It was more than coach Mike Bosco could hope for.
"It's a motivational thing," Bosco said, explaining his pre-game warm-up. "You can't make mistakes when you do it that way. The players get a good feeling. The kids were up for it. It's the first time all year we've used it.
"This had to be our year. We are going to go through a rebuilding next year, so if we were going to win, it had to be this year. I thought it was going to be a high-scoring game. It (the lopsided score) surprised me as well. My concern wasn't our offense. It was whether we could stop them from scoring runs. I'm speechless."
One of the reasons it wasn't a high-scoring game was because of Abina, who fanned five and walked three. The right-hander got off to shaky start by yielding two first-inning runs and three singles. One of those was a two-run hit by losing pitcher Eric Maupin. Abina allowed only two hits and a run over the next four innings.
"He did very well," Bosco said. "Everything worked as we planned. We knew (Steve) Masten had four innings left. I was going to try to get four or five out of Abina and then come in with (Steve) Masten to close it."
Conversely, the Cougars had no trouble solving Maupin's efforts in the first inning to wipe out the 2-0 deficit.
The Cougars didn't sting the ball in the first, save for Travis Sulezich's run-scoring double inside the first-base bag. Everything the Cougars hit seemed to find a hole. Kyle Smit had a run-scoring, two-out single as did No. 8 hitter Casey Rodella. The Cougars sent 10 men to the plate in the first inning.
McNamara sent ace lefty Andrew Ferguson to the hill in the second, but he was no mystery to the Cougars, either. By the time Ferguson left the game with two outs in the third, the Cougars had collected nine hits and scored eight times.
Kyle Smit and Ryan Laing had run-scoring singles in the second to make it 7-2, and the Cougars continued the surge with six runs in the third. The big hits in the third were Masten's two-run homer and Thomas Farmer's two-run single.
Galena scored its final run in the fourth on Justin Norvick's double, which scored Phil Diaz all the way from first.
Galena needed a run to keep the game alive in the fifth, but Abina retired two straight hitters to strand runners at first and third.