Bonanza rides hot streak into Legion state tourney

Bonanza’s baseball team needed to win two of its final three regular-season games to clinch a spot in the American Legion state tournament.

The young Bengals made sure coach Kevin Fiddler had little to worry about.

Bonanza won all three games, beating Green Valley, Faith Lutheran and Desert Oasis to reach the Legion postseason for the first time since 2009.

“You always wonder who’s going to show up with high school baseball players, if they’re going to respond with extra energy or sit back,” Fiddler said. “The guys closed out real well, which is good to see heading into the postseason.”

Fourth-seeded Bonanza (16-11) opens the state tournament against fifth-seeded Durango (50-22) at 5 p.m. Saturday at UNLV. The eight-team, double-elimination tournament concludes Aug. 4.

Coronado (12-10) earned the final spot in the tournament and plays top-seeded Bishop Gorman (36-9) at 8 p.m. Saturday.

On Sunday, Reno (34-18) faces Las Vegas (22-10) at 5 p.m., and Cimarron-Memorial (24-9-1) plays Liberty (22-8) at 8 p.m.

Bonanza scored a combined 32 runs over its past three games. First baseman Jack Orozco, who is batting .345 with three home runs and 24 RBIs, called the late surge a “huge momentum shift.”

“It got us mentally prepared and helped us focus,” Orozco said. “From here on, nothing is going to be easy.”

Orozco said the Bengals “wouldn’t be where we are now” without infielder Sean DeSoto, who is hitting .427 with a .541 on-base percentage.

Bonanza also is getting consistent offense from Travis Ming (.349 average, four home runs, 31 RBIs), Daniel Romero (.420, 22 RBIs, 12 stolen bases) and Austin Taft (.342, 16 RBIs).

Fiddler called Nick Risucci his “go-to guy” on the mound. The right-hander is 4-4 with a 3.77 ERA.

“He settled in to pitching his game instead of trying to be someone else,” Fiddler said.

Pitching depth is key over the long course of the tournament, and Fiddler feels confident being able to start right-handers Risucci, Romero (4-1) and David Estrada (4-2).

“Between those three guys, that’s 12 of our 16 wins,” Fiddler said.

Fiddler is proud of the way his team responded late considering it has no recent graduates or college players.

“Last time we were here, we were two-and-done,” he said. “I think the guys want to stick around for a while. When you put these guys in a playoff situation, they seem to step up. Hopefully they’ll rise up again.”

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