Bill Dexheimer figured the best way to slow down the potent Bishop Gorman lineup was with a steady diet of off-speed pitches. So on Thursday, the Legacy baseball coach turned to junior Adam Thompson, who has the best change-up on the Longhorns’ staff.
And for three innings the move worked as Thompson kept Gorman in check and the Longhorns owned a 3-1 lead.
But the Gaels came alive in the fourth inning, scoring six times on the way to an 11-3 win in the Sunset Region tournament at Sierra Vista.
Gorman (36-3), the three-time defending state champion and winners of 35 straight, will play Northwest League No. 1 Cimarron-Memorial (30-5) in the championship game at 4 p.m. today at Sierra Vista.
“They’re a good hitting baseball team,” Dexheimer said. “You’re not going to fool them more than once or twice through the lineup. They made the adjustments, which good hitters do.”
Senior Joey Rickard, who signed with Arizona, went 3-for-4 including a grand slam in the fourth inning that broke a 3-all tie. Junior Johnny Field was also 3-for-4 with two doubles and a solo home run leading off the fourth.
“We know it’s really tough for a pitcher to shut us down for the full seven innings,” Rickard said. “We just had to be patient and take what they give us until we get to him.”
The Longhorns (21-9) got an early spark as junior Andres Ortiz hit the third pitch of the game out to left, although Legacy missed out on a chance for more after having runners at second and third with no outs.
“It would have been nice to have those runs,” Dexheimer said. “Our kids competed. That’s all we can ask.”
In the third inning, Legacy got to Gaels starter Tyler Wagner for two more runs on RBI singles by Austin Christiansen and Donald Glover. But senior R.J. Santigate replaced Wagner at the start of the fourth inning and pitched four scoreless innings, allowing just two hits to earn the victory.
Santigate also got some help from his defense, notably freshman third baseman Joey Gallo, whose diving play to end the top of the fourth provided a huge spark to the Gaels.
“We talk about momentum a lot as a club,” Gaels coach Chris Sheff said. “A play like that can spark momentum. It was probably the turning point in the game. Of course, the leadoff homer helps. That’s a pretty good bounce back after a nice play.”
Gorman junior Neil Lawhorn finished 2-for-4 with a run-scoring triple that tied the game at 3-all and a RBI single in the fifth to make it 8-3.
“The ultimate goal is to win a state title and now we’ve put ourselves in a position where we have two shots to get to state,” Sheff said. “We have to lose two in a row not to make state. It’s nice to be in that position.”
Legacy 8, Palo Verde 5 — At Sierra Vista, senior Chase Skinner went 3-for-4 and junior reliever James Allen pitched his way out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth inning to lead the Longhorns.
Skinner was a home run shy of hitting for the cycle as he had a run-scoring triple in Legacy’s five-run third inning and a RBI double in the fourth that made it 7-1.
Junior Dillon Meyer hit a two-run homer in the fifth for the Panthers (21-12) and senior Brandon Laubhan added a run-scoring single to cut Legacy’s lead to 7-4.
Trailing 8-4 in the bottom of the sixth, Palo Verde loaded the bases with one out before Allen got Meyer to pop out and then struck out Branden Hepworth to end the threat.
Meyer finished 2-for-4 and scored twice to lead the Panthers.
Senior Austin Christiansen went 3-for-4, including a run-scoring single in Legacy’s big third inning. Andres Ortiz and Donald Glover each finished 2-for-4 for the Longhorns.
Cimarron-Memorial 9, Spring Valley 5 — At Centennial, A.J. Hernandez hit a three-run double to highlight a five-run first inning as the Spartans beat the Grizzlies (26-10) to move into the Sunset title game.
Kris Kaplan’s sacrifice fly and Taylor Doyle’s RBI single plated two more Spartan runs in the second and Doyle’s two-run triple in the fourth capped the scoring for Cimarron.
Kaplan finished 3-for-4 with two runs and two RBI’s, Doyle went 2-for-4 with three RBI’s and Bradley Oswald went 2-for-2 with three runs for Cimarron.
Joshua Stout doubled drove in two runs for Spring Valley.
Spring Valley 6, Centennial 5 — At Centennial, Aaron Blair’s two-run single in the bottom of the seventh gave the Grizzlies the win over the Bulldogs.
Blair was 2-for-4, and Billy Bob Ward went 3-for-3 for Spring Valley.
Dominick Monteiro was 2-for-3 with three runs and two RBIs, and Sam Friend had three hits for Centennial (24-12).