Dillon Dove was mighty efficient for the first six innings Saturday.
It turned out the Las Vegas High left-hander needed to be, because it took all he had to record the final out.
Dove gutted his way through a four-hitter and stranded the potential tying and winning runs on base in the bottom of the seventh inning to help the Wildcats to a 4-3 win at Rancho in the Northeast League opener for both teams.
“Dillon pitched well today,” Las Vegas coach Sam Thomas said. “He did exactly what we asked him to do, challenge hitters, go after kids and let your defense work. He threw all of his pitches for strikes.”
Dove needed only 79 pitches to get through the first six innings, effectively mixing his fastball, curve and changeup.
After a leadoff walk to start the bottom of the seventh, Dove picked off the baserunner and struck out the next hitter.
“The pickoff was huge,” Thomas said.
But a single through the right side by Nick Chavez and a bloop single to right by Bryce Harrell after an eight-pitch at-bat had the Rams on the verge of stealing the game.
Dove battled Rancho’s Matt Almodover through another eight-pitch at-bat before getting a foul out to catcher Mac Lockett to end the game.
After being spotted a 3-0 lead on a first-inning RBI double by Jose Sanchez and Charlie Shavers’ second-inning two-run homer, Dove and the Wildcats (1-1-1, 1-0 Northeast) had a rocky third inning.
Rancho (4-4, 0-1) parlayed a walk, a sacrifice bunt that Dove misplayed, a bloop single behind first base and a wild throw at the end of that play, and a passed ball into three runs to tie the game.
Dove settled down, retiring nine of the next 11 batters, with the only two to reach base in that span doing so on errors.
That gave the Wildcats enough time to score the decisive run in the sixth.
Jerome Byndloss reached second with one out after his bunt single was thrown away. With two outs, Dustin Cash had a swinging bunt not more than 15 feet in front of home plate. The throw to first was wild, allowing Byndloss to score.
“They scrapped out a victory,” Thomas said. “They put the ball in play, and they forced Rancho to make some mistakes.”