Cold puts damper on Wolverines’ season
Last Saturday’s doubleheader sweep by Lowry hurt.
It hurt because the bitter-cold wind laced with snow flurries that blew through the high school ballfields all afternoon made it next to impossible to avoid the sting that just about every pitch, every foul ball brought.
“They were probably (two) of the coldest games we played in,” Truckee Wolverines’ Head Baseball Coach Jason Estabrook said.
The 6-3 and 13-2 losses to the Buckaroos also hurt because they dropped the Wolverines all the way back to fifth place in the NIAA 3A with only two games left before the Northern Zone Tournament.
“It was not a very good weekend. Base-running mistakes really hurt us,” Estabrook said.
And it hurt because the way the Wolverines lost in the first game epitomized one of the game’s harsh truisms. That is, pay attention, because a mental lapse on one play can change a game.
Such a play came in the bottom of the sixth inning of the first game when Buckaroos’ starting pitcher Tyler Dennis picked Truckee’s Jacob Bohart off first base with no outs, the tying run on third and the Wolverines trailing 3-2. After picking Bohart off, the Lowry defense would come to the aid of Dennis and preserve the Buckaroos lead.
The miserable weather, which sapped much of the enthusiasm out of players and the crowd on hand, didn’t keep Lowry from playing the kind of ball that would have made Whitey Herzog’s 1980’s St. Louis Cardinals’ teams proud — singles, sacrifice bunts and well-timed three-run homers.
In the first game, Lowry got a run in the top of the first and another in the third on a leadoff single, a sacrifice bunt and another single to make it 2-1 going into the sixth.
The Wolverines scored in the second on back to back doubles by T.J. Dwyer and Dave Larson with one out.
In the sixth, the Buckaroos got a leadoff single that one-hopped past centerfielder Kevin Schlesinger. By the time he ran it down, the Lowry player was standing on third with no body out.
But a diving catch good for the highlight reel by left fielder Jason Ames prevented further damage in the inning.
The runner on third tagged up after Ames’ catch and ran home for a 3-1 lead.
In the bottom of the inning, it looked like the Wolverines would at least tie the game, if not take the lead.
Nick Smith drilled a 2-2 pitch through the infield for a leadoff single before Matt Kolbe followed by lining a single to centerfield that went under the glove of the Lowry fielder and rolled all the way to the fence.
Smith scored and Kolbe scampered all the way to third with the potential tying run and no outs.
After Bohart followed with a walk, the Wolverines had the makings of a big inning.
But on a straight steal attempt called by Estabrook to avoid a potential double play, Bohart left an instant too early.
Instead of delivering a pitch, Dennis stepped towards third then turned and picked Bohart off.
“I can take part of the responsibility for that, it wasn’t the best time to (steal),” Estabrook said. “It was a mental mistake by Jacob and coaching error by me, I should have waited until later in the count to send him. It hurt us, because we had Lowry on their heels.”
On the very next pitch, Dennis was wild, bouncing a pitch to the backstop.
Kolbe raced home, but was thrown out at the plate thanks to a perfect throw by the Buckaroo catcher to Dennis, who was covering home plate.
“It was a bang-bang play,” Estabrook said. “It took a perfect throw from their catcher.”
Starting pitcher J.R. Murphy then hit a high fly to deep right center that was caught to end the inning.
In the top of the seventh, a leadoff walk and a base hit put runners at first and second before Lowry’s Joe Robinson sent a drive high into the snow flurries and just over the fence in left field near the scoreboard for a game-breaking three-run home run.
Down to their last three outs, Truckee had the makings of a rally in the bottom of the seventh after Dwyer and Larson once again doubled back-to-back to lead off.
Dwyer had to hold up because it looked like Larson’s drive might be caught, but Truckee still had runners on second and third with no outs.
Dwyer scored on the next pitch when Brad Sausser bounced to short, but a base running error by Larson, who was thrown out trying to advance to third, effectively ended any hopes of a comeback.
Murphy took the loss, striking out two but walking five. Afterward, Estabrook said he was pleased with his performance, minus one pitch.
“He pitched well enough to win. He just made one mistake, a curveball (to Robinson),” Estabrook said.
Dennis got the win for Lowry, striking out 10.
Dwyer and Larson both finished 2-for-3 at the plate with four doubles between them.
Lowry rode the emotion from its dramatic victory into the second game, scoring eight times in the first two innings enroute to a 13-2 win.
Dwyer took the loss, struggling early and getting little help from his defense, which committed six errors in the nightcap.
“He went deep into a lot of counts, hitters counts, where he was behind, and you can’t do that,” Estabrook said. “But we had already packed our gear. We weren’t in the game at all E We didn’t hit the ball at all against a very average pitcher.”
Kolbe led the Wolverines by going 2-fo-3 in the second game.
It was just three weeks ago that the Wolverines swept a doubleheader from defending state champion Fernley and were eyeing their April 17 game against the Bishop Manogue Miners as a chance to assert themselves near the top of the league.
But the Miners cruised to a 12-1 victory, and after Saturday’s setback to second-place Lowry (whose only two losses in league are to Manogue), the Wolverines must regroup to avoid another of baseball’s truisms — that one game, like the first game on Saturday, can change a whole season.
The Wolverines play North Tahoe in Tahoe City this Saturday. The double header starts at 1 p.m. Truckee needs only a split to secure a fifth place finish in league and move on to the zone tournament.
“Our main focus is game one with North Tahoe, we aren’t looking at the playoffs or game two with North Tahoe,” Estabrook said.
For North Tahoe to advance to the zone tournament, they need to win both games.
The zone tournament will include six teams, with the two-top seeds getting first round byes. The four lower seeds will play for the right to face the top seeds in the second round.
The champion, runner up and third-place team to come out of the third round will move onto the state tournament in Mesquite, Nev. May 16 to 18.
The girls regular-season league champ will host both the baseball and softball 3A Northern Zone Tournaments on May 9 to 11.
Currently, Manogue is in first with an 11-1 record, but they travel to Fernley, 9-3, this weekend for a doubleheader. The Lady Vaqueros need to sweep Manogue in order to win the league. Otherwise Manogue will host the zone playoffs.