American Legion baseball coaches like to talk about the importance of quality pitching, but they rarely see it materialize in nine-inning tournament games.
Reno coach Pete Savage, however, was treated to a gem by his starter Thursday. Ryan Bush, a senior right-hander, went the distance to lead the sixth-seeded Knights to a 9-3 semifinal victory over No. 3 Silverado in the state tournament at UNLV’s Wilson Stadium.
The win forced a second semifinal between the teams. That game will be played at 5 p.m. today under the tournament’s double-elimination format, with the winner advancing to play Bishop Gorman or Las Vegas in the championship game at 7 p.m. Saturday.
“You don’t see complete games very often,” said Savage, whose team has stayed alive with three straight wins following an opening-round loss to Silverado. “Ryan started off a little rocky, then he settled down and battled.”
Though the Knights (42-13) attacked Hawks starter Josh Bravin for three runs in the top of the first inning, Silverado (20-9-1) fought back with a two-run homer by Wyatt Reid in the bottom half and tied it at 3-all with an unearned run in the second.
But Bush, who held Silverado to seven hits, found his groove by the third inning and did not allow another baserunner until the eighth.
His offense, meanwhile, provided plenty of support and gave Bush the lead for good when Kevin Wallace launched an RBI double into right-center.
Hawks coach Brian Whitaker said he was impressed by Bush’s performance, but said his players weren’t blameless.
“They just didn’t seem to be real focused on the task at hand,” Whitaker said. “We weren’t successful at any facet of the game. We didn’t pitch, we didn’t field and we didn’t hit.”
The Knights continued to capitalize, scoring single runs in the fifth and sixth, and blowing it open in the eighth with a sacrifice RBI by Tyler McElroy and a bloop RBI single by Anthony Hascheff.
Silverado threatened in the eighth, but Bush (8-1) worked out of the jam by getting Trevor Johnson to pop out.
Savage downplayed the significance of today’s rematch.
“We’re just going to execute against the game itself,” he said. “Silverado is a very good ball club, so it will be a good challenge for us.”
Whitaker also focused on his own players, saying, “We need to clean up a whole bunch of things.”
Hascheff went 3-for-4 with two RBIs to lead Reno, and Garrett Hampson went 3-for-5 with a double.
Reid went 2-for-4 with two RBIs to lead the Hawks.
Las Vegas 15, Bishop Gorman 14 — Xavier Palmer stole home with two outs in the 11th inning to lift the fourth-seeded Wildcats over the top-seeded Titans.
The teams will play a second semifinal game today at 8 p.m. under the tourney’s double-elimination format, with the winner to advance to Saturday’s championship game.
Jesse Acosta and Justin Cheney each went 2-for-5 to lead Las Vegas (23-15), which trailed throughout much of the game.
Any notion of a pitchers’ duel was put to rest by the third inning, when both teams scored five runs to give the Titans a 7-6 lead.
Gorman (40-8-1) grabbed momentum in the fifth, building a 10-7 lead with the help of a two-run triple by Erik Van Meetren.
But the Wildcats chipped away at the deficit and went ahead 11-10 in the seventh by scoring two runs without the benefit of a hit.
An RBI single by Van Meetren tied the score at 11 in the bottom of the seventh, and Gorman capped a three-run eighth inning with Cody Roper’s second home run of the night to make it 14-11.
But Las Vegas loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the ninth, tying it at 14 on a sacrifice fly by Jesse Acosta.
Reliever Acosta shut down Gorman in order in the bottom of the 11th. He pitched three scoreless innings to earn the win.