After falling at home to Galena, 14-4, in five innings on April 6, Spanish Springs first-year coach Matt Ortiz said he didn’t know where his team stood.
He felt okay about his squad’s place following a narrow 7-4 loss at Galena three days prior, but the lack of competitiveness displayed gave him reason for concern. Instead of meeting down the left-field line and talking to the team before putting the field away, he told his team do field prep first.
The talk would come later. It worked.
Spanish Springs has rattled off four-straight wins since, including a sweep of traditional contender Bishop Manogue that ended on Saturday with a 5-1 home win. Two days prior, Josh Prizina blasted two solo home runs, including the game winner in the top of the eighth, to give the Cougs a one-run victory.
The purple and white now finds itself tied with Reno atop the 4A North at 9-3 and squarely in contention for a league title.
4A North baseball standings
— Nathan Shoup (@Trib_Shoup) April 16, 2017
Another local first-year coach, Levi Matherly, would’ve been happy to be in Ortiz’s position after getting swept by the Grizzlies.
Matherly’s Reed Raiders took a seven-game losing streak into Thursday’s contest at Galena, the defending two-time regional runner up.
Reed still sits on the outside of the playoff picture looking in (resting in 10th place), but finds itself squarely in contention. The Raiders own a 4A North record of 5-7, just one game out of a three-way tie for seventh and two games out of a three-way tie for fourth.
They also earned their share of tiebreaker points with the sweep of the Grizzlies and are yet to play the only two teams behind them in the standings (North Valleys and Hug).
Time for Nevada baseball to make its move
T.J. Bruce is going through a sophomore slump in his second season filling out Nevada’s lineup card.
Nevada, picked to finish third in the Mountain West Preseason Poll, failed to win consecutive games until taking the second and third games of this weekend’s home series against San Jose State on Friday and Saturday.
Those were games No. 36 and 37 of the season.
The Wolf Pack is just 11-26 overall, but 7-11 in conference play – tied with UNLV for fifth place and only one win shy of third-place Fresno.
At this time last year, after the sixth conference series of the season, Nevada sat at 18-20, 9-8. It then won 14 of its final 16 regular-season games and went on a special run in the MW tournament to reach the conference title game.
It seems unlikely the team will go on a similar run to close the 2017. And it doesn’t need to. It just needs to get into the top four. This year, the field was trimmed from all seven teams down to four.
The MW will once again receive a lone bid to the NCAA tournament (New Mexico is the only team in the conference with a sub-100 RPI), so it will come down to those five days in late May. The regular-season champion will host the tournament. New Mexico holds a 2.5-game lead over San Diego State.
Nevada could use a third series win of the season this weekend when it stays at Peccole to play Fresno. The three-game set starts Friday night. A trip to last-place Air Force follows.
If the Wolf Pack is to make its move, it has to start now.
Reno 1868 FC struggling
Expansion franchises can be scary.
A slew of unfamiliar players are thrown into matching uniforms and asked to compete at high level. Almost never does immediate success follow.
In its first season of existence, Reno 1868 FC is enduring its struggles early. Greater Nevada Field’s second tenant fell 4-0 at San Antonio on Saturday night and is one of just three teams in the 30-team USL without a win.
Reno now owns the worst goal differential in the USL (-8). That’s three goals worse than the second-worst goal differential in the USL of -5 owned by Toronto II in the Eastern Conference.
The schedule has certainly factored. Two of Reno’s first four matches were on the road against the top two teams in the Western Conference (San Antonio and Salt Lake City).
The margin of error doesn’t exactly expand Saturday when Colorado Springs comes to Reno. The Switchbacks are off to a 2-1-2 start with a goal differential of +2. However, two of the following three matches are against squads who sit outside the playoff picture looking in. And three of the next four overall are at Greater Nevada Field.
Nathan can be reached via email at email@example.com. His weekly column, ‘Shoup Shots,’ was named the best column in the state of Nevada (community division) by the Nevada Press Association. It runs in the hard copy of the Sparks Tribune every Tuesday morning.