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AMERICAN LEGION: Chris Cortez throws complete game as Silverado stays alive

Silverado incoming-freshman Chris Cortez had trouble with American Legion’s new pitch-count rule during the regular season. Hawks coach Brian Whitaker said his young right-hander was using too many pitches to get outs.

Monday night in an elimination game of the American Legion state baseball tournament at UNLV, Cortez found a groove early and never relinquished it, as he fired a seven-inning complete game to lead the Hawks to a 12-1 win over the Post 8 (Rancho) Rams.

“We talked about pulling him at 80 (pitches), but he didn’t get there until the seventh inning. Today he was much more efficient, pitching to contact and had his breaking ball (working),” Whitaker said. “He’s young, but he’s not overwhelmed by playing with the older kids. That was a big outing for us, because everybody tries to save pitching through the losers’ bracket. It’s a tough march. Tonight, he had really good command of the strike zone.”

Cortez (3-5) — who fired 88 pitches, well below the maximum of 120 — retired 12 of the last 15 batters he faced. He allowed an unearned run on six hits with four strikeouts.

“I tried to stay humble and I didn’t really pay attention to (pitch counts) and just kept going,” Cortez said. “I stayed back on all my pitches, and tried to calm down through every pitch. If they hit a ball, I just worked back and tried to throw strikes. I didn’t want to go home early, so I just came out here and tried my best and threw as hard as I could.”

Dax Fellows went 2-for-5 including his sixth home run of the season. He scored twice and drove in three runs. Tyler Paasche was 2-for-4 with two runs and an RBI for Silverado (15-12).

The Hawks opened the scoring in the bottom of the first half by sending 10 batters to the plate, and bringing across four runs. The Rams answered with a run in the top of the second inning, but Silverado essentially put the game out of reach with three more in the bottom of the third, capped by Fellows’ three-run homer over the left-field wall.

“After losing to a team we knew we could beat (in the opening round), we just had to find the pieces again and get back to our way of baseball,” said Fellows, who hit a team-high .419 during the regular season. “I just came to play, I was ready to play. I had to step up and get this team going and get us out of the funk we were in last game.”

Leading 8-1 in the bottom of the sixth, the Hawks added four more runs, sparked by Caleb Hubbard’s two-run double that put the game out of reach.

“We were a little almost too tight for that first game, and we kind of just talked about getting the ball out of the air, hitting it hard, make the other team play — that was our adjustment,” Whitaker said. “We got some timely hitting, like the home run by Dax and Hubbard’s double down the line, and Chris pitched his best game of the season. I love our kids, they work hard, they listen, they try to apply what we’re talking about and we’re going to try to stay alive as long as we can.”

David Arambula went 2-for-3 to lead the Rams (11-23).

Southern Nevada Blue Sox 14, Coronado 4 — Garrett Giles went 2-for-4 with two runs and three RBIs, and Jerry Smith was 1-for-2 with a home run, two runs and two RBIs to lead the top-seeded Blue Sox, from Basic High.

Starting pitcher Shane Spencer improved to 7-1 this season after firing five innings of five-hit ball. He allowed two earned runs and struck out two for the Blue Sox (47-9).

Designated hitter Ryan Murphy 2-for-4 with a run, and Taylor Darden was also 2-for-4 with an RBI for Coronado (18-15).

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