Rancho catcher Zach Barnhart initially figured his fifth-inning grand slam would be enough to give his team a victory Saturday.
It wasn’t, so Barnhart provided another clutch hit — a two-run single in the eighth to give fifth-seeded Rancho an 8-7 win over No. 4 Basic in the opening round of the American Legion state tournament at UNLV’s Wilson Stadium.
“That was probably the biggest at-bat of the game,” Barnhart said of his go-ahead line drive to center field. “I just wanted to put the ball in play. I got a fastball on the outer half, threw my hands at it and got a base hit up the middle.”
It did not appear Barnhart’s late heroics would be necessary after he gave his team a 6-0 lead in the fifth with a bases-loaded blast over the left-field fence. Rancho starter Joshua Mill, who allowed no hits through the first four innings, was cruising, and the Blue Sox looked outmatched.
But Jack Wold’s two-run double in the fifth cut Basic’s deficit to 6-2, and the Blue Sox tied it with a four-run sixth inning that was capped by Wold’s two-run single.
Rancho coach Tom Pletsch said he knew his team’s early lead was no guarantee of a victory.
“Any time you go nine innings, it’s a little different than in the regular season,” he said, noting that league games go only seven innings. “I’ve seen a lot of leads disappear in this tournament, and I knew Basic wasn’t going to give up.”
Braulio Santiguin and David Modler had back-to-back one-out singles for the Rams in the eighth inning, and Barnhart cashed in with his go-ahead hit to give Rancho an 8-6 lead.
Barnhart said he knew his team would hold the late lead.
“I knew because it was the eighth inning,” he said. “It was a good time to get it.”
Basic (35-17) got a run back in the bottom of the inning, but Rams reliever Andrew Wieger retired the Blue Sox in order in the ninth to earn the save.
Modler went 3-for-4 with a triple to help Rancho (25-17), and teammates Kavion Kealoha and Santiguin each went 2-for-4. Reliever Richard Coughlin got the victory.
Wold finished with two hits and four RBIs to lead Basic.
Silverado 4, Desert Oasis 2 — Silverado starting pitcher Mitchell Ballard tossed 6 2/3 strong innings to help his eighth-seeded team upset top-seeded Desert Oasis in Saturday’s late game.
Ballard held the Aces to one run on eight hits while striking out three, and teammate Vincent Taormina went 2-for-5.
Kevin Pindel gave the Hawks a 1-0 edge with an RBI double in the second inning, and teammate Dax Fellows drove in a run with a single in the fifth to extend the lead. Silverado (12-17) also benefited from a bases-loaded walk in the fifth to go ahead, 3-0.
The Aces (44-12) chased Ballard in the seventh inning, and cut their deficit to 3-1 when Silverado reliever James Skelly walked in a run. But Skelly settled down to earn the save, and Taormina tacked on a run with a towering home run to left field in the ninth.
Bryson Stott went 2-for-5 with a double to lead Desert Oasis.