RENO — The number 29 has taken on special meaning for Basic’s baseball team as it tries to win its first state title since 1987.
So it was fitting that Ryne Nelson came through in the clutch Thursday.
Nelson, wearing No. 29, singled home Gehrig Timmons with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Wolves a 3-2 win over Reno in the Division I state tournament at Bishop Manogue High.
“Nellie’s been our guy for four years,” said Basic coach Scott Baker, who was part of the 1987 championship team. “It’s a special moment for us with a whole bunch of superstitious stuff going on. And No. 29 at the plate right there was who we wanted.”
Basic (34-4) faces Galena (28-7-1) in the winners’ bracket final at 1 p.m. Friday at Manogue. Reno (28-7) plays Centennial (27-10) in an elimination game at 10 a.m., with the winner playing the Basic-Galena loser at 4 p.m.
Nelson’s father, Ryan, also played on the 1987 championship team and also wore No. 29. But it was more than just a number that made Nelson the right man in that situation. Basic’s No. 3 hitter entered the game batting .400, and he went 3-for-4 Thursday.
He lined a 1-and-2 pitch to left-center field for a game-winning single. The ball rolled all the way to the wall, allowing Timmons to score easily from second.
“At first, I was just trying to see a good pitch,” Nelson said. “They got to two strikes, I widened out a little bit and tried to put the bat on the ball. It just went where it went.”
Timmons pinch-hit for No. 9 hitter Nick Thompson, who was 2-for-2 with a walk. The move turned out to be the right one, as Timmons singled through the left side of the infield to start the rally.
David Hudleson managed to get a two-strike sacrifice bunt down, moving Timmons into scoring position. Christian Rivero was beaned with a 2-and-1 pitch to bring up Nelson, who ended the game.
Both teams had opportunities in the late innings but failed to score. Basic had runners at second and third with no outs in the seventh. The Wolves had a runner at third with one out in the eighth.
Reno also had chances. The Huskies left runners in scoring position in the seventh and eighth innings.
“The pitching was unreal on both sides, getting out of every inning,” Baker said. “Big plays, big strikeouts. I think that was the game. The pitching allowed both sides to stay in and see who got the big hit, and we ended up getting the big hit.”
Sophomore C.J. Dornak, who has allowed only two earned runs all season, pitched two scoreless innings of relief to get the victory. He struck out two with no walks.
“That’s why we went to him,” Baker said. “We knew he was going to be cool, calm, collected. He’s going to throw strikes, and we’re not going to give away any walks and hit by pitch and stuff like that. They’re going to have to hit their way on.”
Jack Wold had a two-run double for Basic. Starter Trent Bixby allowed two unearned runs on seven hits in seven innings, with six strikeouts and one walk.
* Galena 4, Centennial 2 — Hayden Rosenkrantz was overpowering at times, but when the Grizzlies did catch up with Rosenkrantz’s fastball, it went a long way.
Galena scored all of its runs on three home runs to top the Bulldogs.
“He left a couple balls up and they got hit out,” Centennial coach Charlie Cerrone said. “And our approach at the plate today wasn’t what it has been. We’ve got to have a better approach tomorrow.”
Rosenkrantz struck out 10 and allowed only seven hits, but the home runs proved to be too much for Centennial to overcome.
The Grizzlies jumped ahead in the second when Parker Kittilsen crushed an 0-and-1 breaking ball for a two-run homer to left.
Galena added a run in the third when Tom Lichty launched a ball over the fence in right-center field with two outs for a 3-0 advantage.
Centennial got two runs back in the fourth on a two-out, two-run single by No. 8 hitter Hayden Grant.
Centennial had runners on in the fifth and sixth, but Galena turned a double play in each inning to end the threat. The Grizzlies turned three double plays in the game.
“And that was in relation to how our approach was,” Cerrone said of the double plays. “We were trying to pull the ball, and it was going right to the left side of their infield, and they turned some double plays on us.
“We felt like we were hook swinging, trying to pull the ball, and that’s not what we do.”
Galena pitcher Jared Kiessling, who went the distance, gave himself some cushion with a two-out solo homer in the sixth. He retired the final eight batters, and both of his strikeouts came in the seventh.
Contact prep sports editor Damon Seiters at 702-380-4587 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @DamonSeiters