The Las Vegas Knights needed a ninth-inning rally and an 11th-inning home run to capture the American Legion state championship over the weekend. There would be no furious comeback on Wednesday.
The Knights, from Bishop Gorman, trailed 6-0 after five innings before suffering a 12-5 setback to the Chico Nuts, the California state champion, in the first game of the Western Regional in Boulder, Colo. The Knights will face Boulder (Colo.) at noon Thursday in an elimination game.
“Since I’ve been at Gorman, this is the worst game I’ve ever seen,” coach Gino DiMaria said. “We embarrassed ourselves. Dropping fly balls. Missing routine plays. We were getting guys on and they’re doing their own thing. Absolutely atrocious. We did not represent Nevada well. Period.”
After quickly falling behind 6-0, the Knights fought back and another comeback looked possible.
Outfielder Bryce Ruggeroli, who finished 3-for-4, ended the shutout in the sixth inning with a two-run double to left field to score Marques Paige and Jordan Sadovia.
In the seventh inning, the Knights got a two-run homer from Nick Hernandez to make it 6-4.
But they would get no closer, as errors and sloppy play piled on in the bottom half of the inning.
“We climbed back and as soon as we made it 6-4, it was back-to-back errors and then a big hit,” DiMaria said. “It was just unbelievable. They didn’t beat us. We beat ourselves.”
The Nuts scored three runs in each of the next two innings to seize control.
“I never thought I’d see Gorman play like this,” DiMaria said. “It was awful. We’ve been down before and we’ve always had that one inning. We were starting to get on their pitcher and they were struggling a little bit. But we just didn’t know how to play defense today. It was ridiculous.”
Hernandez and Jorel Hingada each went 3-for-5 for the Knights, who finished with 14 hits and four errors. Hernandez had three RBIs after hitting an RBI double in the ninth inning.
Bronson Bowe picked up the loss after allowing six earned runs and eight hits over 4 1/3 innings. Bowe finished with three strikeouts and two walks for the Knights.
Andrew Shippelhoute was 3-for-5 with a home run, a stolen base and three RBIs to lead the Nuts, who also got three RBIs from Justin Morris.
Hayden Southam gave up no earned runs over seven innings and struck out three to earn the win.
“True champions understand that a setback is a setback,” DiMaria said. “There’s nothing better than an amazing comeback story. We’re going to have to fight. All we have to do is win three games, which is possible. Just take it one game at a time. We’re coming back with Matty Mitchell tomorrow.”
Contact reporter Ashton Ferguson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0430. Follow him on Twitter: @af_ferguson.