ELKO – The Spring Creek baseball team’s home-away-from-home opener turned out more interesting than it should have been.
Following a slow start, the Spartans scored 14-unanswered runs and appeared to open more than enough distance Friday against Lowry for a comfortable win, but the Buckaroos fought back – pulling to within three.
In the end, Spring Creek held on for a 15-12 victory, at Upper Kump Field.
For such a high-scoring contest, offense was hard to come by in the early stages – neither team mounting a run through three innings – the fourth frame serving as the tipping point.
Lowry and Spring Creek only mounted two hits apiece in the first-three innings, the Bucks gaining a single by senior Brendan Domire in the top of the first and a double by senior Josiah Chapman in the top of the second – the Spartans ending the first with a 6-4-3 double play and closing the second with an unassisted play at first base.
The Spartans turned another double play in the top of the third, a 1-4-3 variety.
Spring Creek’s first hits came in the third inning, senior Max Shanks leading off with a base knock – thrown out on the next at-bat on a fielder’s choice – and a base knock by senior Brendyn Taylor going for naught when a strikeout ended the inning.
Lowry benefited from Spring Creek miscues in the top of the fourth, both on the mound and with the defense.
Junior Joshua Leveille scored the game’s first run after reaching base on a walk, advancing on a sacrifice by senior Jacob Marriott and moving once more on an error in left field.
He was driven in by a base knock by junior Jordan Parker.
After drawing a free pass, the error and single by Parker allowed junior Tyler Neu to take third – the bases juiced – and Neu scored when sophomore Anthony Hemp was hit by a pitch.
With the bases still crammed, junior Brooks Bergenheier drew another walk – scoring Chapman – and senior Sage Ricketts roped a two-RBI single up the middle, driving in Parker and Hemp.
Lowry took a 5-0 lead.
The Spartans answered in a big way in the bottom half.
Senior Brock Gilligan led off the frame and wore a pitch in the back, senior Jay King drew a walk and an error on the catcher allowed Shanks to load the paths.
Senior Hunter Buzzetti benefitted and reached from an error at second base, driving in Gilligan for the Spartans’ first run.
An RBI base knock by senior Brendyn Taylor to shallow-center field drove in King, and junior Adam Davis smacked a two-RBI single to right field – scoring Shanks and Buzzetti.
Junior Kyle Owsley sent an opposite-way line drive to left field – driving in Taylor – the Spartans reaching the top of the order once again, Gilligan sending in Owsley and Davis on an RBI single to right field and taking second on an error in right on the play.
He scored on an opposite-field RBI-base knock by King, Spring Creek turning a 5-0 deficit into an 8-5 advantage.
Lowry placed runners on first and second from consecutive errors at shortstop in the top of the fifth, but junior pitcher Ryan Thurston forced back-to-back fly outs and ended the frame with a looking strikeout.
The Bucks hurt themselves in the bottom of the fifth.
Taylor reached on a fielder’s choice, advanced to second on a single by senior James Testerman and a dropped fly ball in center field loaded the bases.
Owsley poked another single to left for two runs – scoring Taylor and Testerman – and Davis took third base with a steal.
King earned an RBI with a bases-loaded free pass – falling behind in the count and battling back – driving in Davis for an 11-5 lead.
Spring Creek took a 12-5 advantage on a quick decision by Gilligan on a ball to the backstop, racing down the line for a 13-5 lead with a head-first slide.
The Bucks gave up three more walks, the final to Taylor sending King around to score for a 14-5 lead.
The Buckaroos bounced back with a big frame in the top of the sixth, starting with a one-out triple by Ricketts to the gap in left-center field.
He scored on an error in left field, and Domire stole second base – scoring on a base knock by Leveille.
Lowry followed with consecutive singles by Marriott and Neu, the latter sending Leveille home.
Marriott swiped home on a double steal as Neu took second base.
Neu advanced to third base and was granted a free trot to back to the plate on a balk, the Bucks pulling to within four a 14-10.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Spartans gained a run back – the Bucks allowing Owsley to score on a balk after he took third on a ball in the dirt.
Entering the top of the seventh, Spring Creek led 15-10.
Lowry did not go quietly, leading off with a base knock by Bergenheier – who stole second base.
Ricketts drew a walk, Domire drove in Bergenheier with a single to center field and Neu dropped a single into shallow-left field and scored Ricketts – the Bucks pulling to within three at 15-12.
Although he didn’t want to go to his ace, Spring Creek coach Scott Gilligan inserted King on the bump – closing the show and the save.
He struck out the first batter he faced for the second out of the inning and forced a 4-3 groundout to seal the deal.
The Spartans showed both their best moments and some tension-causing ones in a 15-12 victory.
Owsley led the Spartans with three RBIs and King, Taylor and Davis drove in a pair of runs apiece – the roster capped by an RBI each for Gilligan and Buzzetti.
Spring Creek will finish the three-game series with a doubleheader at 10 a.m. and noon Saturday, at Upper Kump Field.