Five runs and 14 hits were not enough for the Las Vegas Aces of Desert Oasis High on Saturday. Instead, it was a wild pitch that got the job done.
Desert Oasis rallied for three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to defeat Centennial 6-5 in the opening round of the American Legion state tournament at UNLV’s Wilson Stadium.
Pinch runner Joel Lewis scored the winning run for the fourth-seeded Aces when reliever Zachary Dixon bounced a bases-loaded pitch with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.
Desert Oasis coach Paul Buboltz said his team is not a stranger to dramatic victories.
“We’ve won like that a few times this year,” said Buboltz, whose squad is playing in the tourney for the first time. “We had opportunities in the eighth to tie the game, but we knew going into the ninth that the top of our order was coming up and we’d have a good shot to tie it or win it.”
Though the Aces (35-19) scored first on a run-scoring double by Cole Crosby in the third inning, the No. 5 Bulldogs (18-17) took control by scoring three runs on four hits and three Desert Oasis errors in the fourth to go ahead, 3-1. That lead was extended to 5-1 in the sixth with the help of a two-run double by Jacob Portaro.
Buboltz said his players never lost faith.
“You’re always going to have a game like this in a tournament,” he said. “Hopefully this will carry into the next game.”
Desert Oasis chased Centennial starter Anthony Saccente with two runs in the eighth and loaded the bases with one out in the ninth. Matt Almaguer’s sharp infield hopper might have resulted in a double play, but Bulldogs second baseman Jacob Horton misplayed the ball, which went through to tie the game at 5.
The Aces loaded the bases again and scored the winning run with two outs.
Though Buboltz was happy with the victory, he said his team’s sloppy play was a concern.
“We just had too many errors and not enough energy for the first eight innings,” said Buboltz, whose team finished with three errors. “But I think we were a little rusty, and we’ve never been here before.”
Jordyn Compehos went 2-for-5 with a double and two RBIs to lead Desert Oasis, and Chandler Smith earned the victory by throwing three shutout innings in relief.
Portaro went 2-for-5 with a double and two RBIs to lead Centennial.
In the late game, Preston Pavlica went 3-for-4 with a double and and RBI to help top-seeded Liberty cruise past No. 8 Palo Verde 10-0 in eight innings.
The defending state champion Patriots (26-3) scored two runs in the third, fourth and fifth innings to take control, and won it with four runs in the eighth. Starter Daniel Skelly held the Panthers (14-14) to two hits over seven innings to improve his record to 10-0.
The tournament continues at 5 p.m. Sunday when sixth-seeded Reno (34-18) plays No. 3 Cimarron-Memorial (34-8). Seventh-seeded Las Vegas (20-14) faces No. 2 Bishop Gorman (30-10) at 8.