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Bulldogs rally to stay alive in Legion tourney

Things looked grim for the Las Vegas Bulldogs of Centennial High as they headed into the bottom of the sixth inning Monday with a four-run deficit.

But it only took the fifth-seeded Bulldogs a half inning to remedy the problem, as they erupted for six runs in the sixth to rally eighth-seeded Palo Verde 6-5 in the second round of the American Legion state tournament at UNLV’s Wilson Stadium.

The win kept Centennial alive in the losers’ bracket, while the Panthers were eliminated.

Assistant coach Mike Bolino, helping lead the Bulldogs in the absence of head coach Charlie Cerrone, said it was a matter of patience.

“We came out a little flat,” said Bolino, whose squad trailed 4-0 heading into the sixth. “But we told the boys it was going to be a long game and anything can happen. We put a six spot on the board, and that made the difference.”

Panthers starter Brad Steiner maintained control through the first five innings and took the mound in the sixth with a three-hitter.

But Centennial loaded the bases with no outs, and Jacob Portaro and Richard Koplow each had two-run hits in the inning. The Bulldogs emerged from the sixth with a 6-4 lead.

“Sometimes things just happen that way,” said Bolino, whose team finished with just five hits. “We managed to make the most of our opportunities and made them pay.”

The rally erased a dominant five innings for Steiner, whose team jumped in front on a first-inning RBI double by Colin Janison and a second-inning run-scoring single by William Hamilton. The lead grew to 4-0 in the fifth with RBIs by Bradley Lewis and Yodai Nakamura.

But the Panthers, who finished with 15 hits, wasted several scoring opportunities to allow the Bulldogs to rally. Lewis gave Palo Verde another run with an RBI single in the eighth, but Jared Drizin finished off the ninth to earn a save for Centennial.

Bolino said the Bulldogs will face Desert Oasis Wednesday with momentum on their side.

“We needed to get back on track tonight,” he said. “All you can do in a tournament is keep yourself alive, and we did that.”

Portaro went 2-for-5 with two RBIs to lead the Bulldogs’ offense, and teammate Chase Caindec tossed four strong relief innings to earn the win.

In Monday’s late game, Nathan Bennett tossed a five-hitter to lead Liberty to a 4-1 victory over Desert Oasis.

Ethan Ibarra went 3-for-4 with two RBIs to help the Patriots, who jumped ahead early and controlled throughout in moving to 2-0 in the tournament.

Second-round action will continue Tuesday with a 5 p.m. elimination game between Reno and Las Vegas, and an 8 p.m. winners’ bracket game between Cimarron-Memorial and Bishop Gorman.

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