State championships have become the expectation at Bishop Gorman, especially for the baseball team, which has claimed the last four Class 4A state championships.
The same can’t be said at Rancho, which hasn’t won a state championship in any sport since 1988.
“There’s not much going on for sports here,” Rancho junior shortstop Brandon Pletsch said.
Pletsch and the Rams hope to change that this week in Reno.
Rancho (30-3), making its first appearance in the state baseball tournament since 1977, takes on Galena (23-9) in the Class 4A state tournament at 1 p.m. today at Bishop Manogue High in Reno. Gorman (33-3) plays Reno (31-3) in the second game at 4 p.m.
The double-elimination tournament continues Friday at Manogue, with Saturday’s championship game scheduled for 5 p.m. Saturday at Aces Ballpark, the home of the Triple-A Reno Aces.
“I’m so thrilled to get an opportunity to take this team back up to Reno for a state tournament,” said Rams coach Tom Pletsch, a 1979 Rancho grad. “It’s been a 33-year drought for Rancho baseball in the state tournament.
“The school is riding a wave right now. Everybody’s excited.”
The Rams won just seven games in Pletsch’s first season as coach in 2006 but began to turn things around the following year, winning 21. Brandon Pletsch, Eric Holdren, Zak Qualls and Kevin Kline became instant starters as freshmen the following season and have become leaders for Rancho.
“As a group of us together it’s just the best opportunity we could ever get,” Holdren said. “It’s just one of the best feelings I’ve ever had. I get to go up there with my friends, play with my teammates and hopefully win a state title.”
Rancho actually has more state baseball titles in its history than Gorman. The Rams have won eight baseball championships to Gorman’s four, but all of Gorman’s have come in the last four seasons. Rancho hasn’t won a baseball title since 1976.
“Just to know that we brought this team back and we have a chance to go up there and win it is kind of an overwhelming feeling,” Holdren said. “But it’s still exciting.”
Rancho has just two seniors on its roster, only one of whom is an everyday starter. But the Rams have plenty of experience, led by the quartet of three-year starters.
“Even though we’re a junior-laden team, that’s unacceptable not to win it because we’re young,” Tom Pletsch said. “We’re going to go and give them everything we’ve got.”
Rancho was tested in the Sunrise Region tournament. Three of the four postseason wins came in one-run games, and the Rams overcame a four-run deficit to beat Green Valley 11-5 in the title game.
“Those are character builders,” Tom Pletsch said. “We were down in two of them, and the kids never gave up. They battled back, and that’s a sign of the type of kid that’s playing. They’re going to leave it all on the field.”
Qualls, who threw a no-hitter in a 2-1 win over Green Valley in the region tournament, said coming from behind to win postseason games only helped the team as it prepares for state.
“It gave us a lot of confidence, because now we know that if we’re behind we can come back,” Qualls said.
Tom Pletsch doesn’t expect his team to be happy just to make the tournament.
“Going to the state tournament for the first time, it’s real easy to just celebrate the Sunrise Region championship, but that’s not our goal,” he said. “That was one of our goals, but we still have a lot of unfinished business.”