Baseball games in recent years between Las Vegas High and Rancho often find a way to go down to the wire.
It’s a good thing for the Wildcats that Dillon Dove seems to thrive in pressure situations.
Dove struck out the potential tying run in the seventh inning to end the game, putting the final touch on a four-hitter to lift Las Vegas to a 3-1 home win over Northeast League rival Rancho on Saturday.
“I think the important thing for Dillon was that he actually pitched today,” Las Vegas coach Sam Thomas said. “He hit his spots, he mixed his pitches well (and) he threw strikes. He made them go after his pitches. He didn’t make very many mistakes.”
Dove tossed his second four-hitter of the season against Rancho. The senior left-hander allowed no earned runs, walked none and struck out nine.
Rancho’s Cody Suarez reached second base on an error with two outs in the seventh, and the Rams (11-10, 5-3) brought the potential tying run to the plate. But Dove struck out Josh Mill to end the game and give Las Vegas (10-9-1, 8-0) a three-game lead in the league standings.
“I just was able to locate my spots and just be able to get ground balls and stuff,” said Dove, who also fired a four-hitter in a 4-3 win over Rancho on March 17.
Dove helped himself in the fourth, hitting an RBI single through the right side to score Dustin Cash. Dove scored on Tyler Tidwell’s double to center field to give Las Vegas a 2-0 lead.
Nolan Cassell’s sacrifice fly plated Jose Sanchez to give the Wildcats a 3-0 lead in the fifth.
Rancho cut its deficit to 3-1 when Keifer McLendon’s sacrifice fly scored Dylan Pletsch in the sixth, but Dove fanned Eric Allen to end the inning.
Damiko Mack went 2-for-3 with a double for Las Vegas.
Rancho starter McLendon struck out seven in five innings, but the junior right-hander took the loss after allowing one earned run on four hits, two walks and one hit batter.
The Wildcats returned only three starters from last season’s team that was 13-1 in Northeast play, but they stand undefeated in the league with six Northeast games remaining.
“In that aspect it’s good, but anybody could be upset at any time,” Thomas said. “We have to get better if we’re going to make a showing in the playoffs. We have a lot of things we have to get better at.”