Tigers, Huskies split Sierra League doubleheader
MINDEN — It all came down to defense for the Douglas High School baseball team on Saturday.
Douglas was virtually flawless in the field and Austin Graham pitched three-hit ball to shutout Reno 8-0 in the opener of a Sierra League doubleheader. The host Tigers were unable to continue their momentum into game two; they committed six errors and the league leading Huskies capitalized to take a come-from-behind 7-4 victory.
“We came out and played like we can in that first game,” said Douglas coach Hal Wheeler, whose club is now 9-6 in league (18-11 overall). “When we don’t do things to beat ourselves, we’re as good as anybody in the league. We just aren’t as consistent as we need to be.”
Reno is now 14-1 in league (24-4 overall) and has first-place locked up heading into the Northern 4A Regional Tournament, which begins on May 8 with games at Reno and Carson high schools. Not only did the Huskies absorb their first league loss in game one, they were shutout for the first time all season.
“Graham is a helluva pitcher. We have a lot of respect for him,” Reno coach Pete Savage said. “But I was proud of the way the kids came back in the second game. We made the plays and got some timely hits when we needed them.”
Game was a showcase for Graham, a junior left-hander who scattered three hits and four walks and struck out seven while he was on the mound. At the plate, he hit 2-for-3 and tripled two runs home to highlight a five-run second inning rally that put the Tigers in control.
Some finesse on the base paths helped ignite the big rally after James Bunting walked with one out and Erik Olson reached on an error. With runners at the corners, Olson broke for second and drew a throw that allowed Bunting to dash home for the game’s first run.
“At the time, that was big,” Wheeler said. “It got things going … raised the momentum and raised our expectations.”
Luke Rippee delivered a two-out single to make it 2-0 and Graham followed with a shot that one-hopped the 400-foot center field fence. Cal Lewis singled to drive Graham home and give the Tigers their 5-0 lead.
In the field, Douglas gave up one error in the fourth inning, but the runner never got past second base. Graham helped his own cause in the sixth when he deflected a hot liner up the middle with runners on first and second and one out. The ball caromed toward third, but Graham retrieved the ball and made the short throw for the force out.
The Tigers weren’t so consistent defensively in game two.
Reno took advantage of three errors to take a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning. The damage would have been more extensive except Douglas center fielder Jake Nielsen gunned down a runner at home with a strike to catcher Matt Saylo.
Saylo was a mainstay both offensively and defensively throughout the doubleheader.
“Matt had a good day,” Wheeler said of the catcher. “Especially the first game, he did a great job defensively … he caught a lot of balls that were down in the dirt. And he hit the ball all day.”
Saylo hit 3-for-3 in the second game, including a two-run double in the first inning. Bunting followed with another double to give the Tigers a 4-2 lead.
However, a two-out Douglas error opened the door for Reno to score three runs and break a 4-4 tie in the fifth inning.
That was enough support for senior left-hander Jessie Weller, who allowed four runs on eight hits over 6 2/3 innings to pick up the win. Sophomore Drew Johnson came on in the seventh and got out of a bases loaded jam when third baseman Steve Mays made a running catch of a pop fly in foul territory down the left field line.
Douglas concludes its regular season with a three-game series against South Tahoe that starts Thursday in Minden. While the Tigers remain in the hunt for second-place in the league, Wheeler isn’t overly concerned with the seed they draw for the regional tournament.
“The other league (High Desert) is so even,” Wheeler said. “I don’t think it matters who we open up with. If we play our game, we can beat anybody in the league.”
Chad Walling doubled with two outs and scored on Brian Miller’s single to left in the bottom of the ninth inning to give Douglas a dramatic 4-3 win in the second game and salvage a split of its doubleheader against Reno. Reno won the opener, 10-8.
Miller hit 2-for-5 and pitched the final 1 1/3 innings to pick up the win. Brandon Huff started and pitched 7 2/3 innings for the Tigers.
In game one, Reno scored seven runs in the fifth inning and then two more runs in the seventh to win.
Kyle Luken hit 3-for-3, scored three runs and drove in two others, including a solo home run in the first inning for Douglas. Jeff Sykes also hit 3-for-3 with one RBI and Chris Honer 2-for-3 with two RBIs.
Jim Pierce was 1-for-4 with one RBI, Cory Hartzell 1-for-4, Huff 1-for-4 with two RBIs and Miller 1-for-4 for the Tigers (6-6, 11-9).