Junior pitcher Wyatt Sparks was nearly perfect in the Houn' Dawgs' first conference game Tuesday, perfect enough to keep Aurora's perfect record nearly halfway through the season.
Sparks allowed just two Monett baserunners through seven innings of Big 8 Conference play, earning a 4-0 win as the teams celebrated the annual Zeros4Heroes game. The junior was dominant on the mound, striking out 13 Monett batters. The only blemishes on the game were a hit batsman in the fourth inning and a one-out base hit in the seventh.
The Houn' Dawg offense threatened in the first two innings, but good defense and solid pitching by the Cub hurler kept the state's top-ranked team off the board.
Then in the fourth inning, a walk drawn by senior Zac Shoemaker got a much-needed rally started. Freshman Ryan Cline advanced Shoemaker to second with a bunt single, then an error on a bunt by senior Brett Schellen allowed the first runner to score, while Cline advanced to third and Schellen to second.
Cline was thrown out trying to score on the next play, a grounder to the shortstop off the bat of junior Miah Fisher. With one out, Sparks stepped to the plate and gave himself three insurance runs to work with, blasting a home run over the left field fence to take a 4-0 lead.
A single by junior Matt Miller and a double by sophomore Gage Singer followed the homer, but neither would score as the next two Houn' Dawg batters went down quickly.
The lead would prove to be more than enough for Sparks, though, as the junior struck out six of the last 10 Monett batters to earn the win.
Miller and Singer finished the day with three hits each, while Sparks added two hits, one run and three RBI.
The Houn' Dawgs will continue Big 8 play next week with home games against Seneca on Monday and McDonald County on Thursday.