Green Valley baseball head coach Corey Gehlken doesn’t take his position for granted because he knows the tradition of his Henderson school, seeing as he’s been a part of the program for almost 20 years when including the assistant years.
So after his Gators lost a four-run, seventh-inning lead in the state final back in May, the fourth-year coach did the opposite of what many would have done: He got right back to work.
Just months after the heartbreaking loss to Bishop Gorman, Gehlken now has the school’s summer team — the GV Elite U-18 — as the top seed in the upcoming Southern Nevada Connie Mack state tournament.
GV Elite (19-3) faces the LV Wildcats (13-9), the No. 8 seed, at 8 p.m. today at the College of Southern Nevada’s Morse Stadium. Fourth-seeded LV Spartans (15-7) will meet No. 5 seed Summerlin Panthers (14-8) at 10 a.m. to open the double-elimination tournament, which concludes Saturday. The winning team advances to the Western Regional Tournament to be held in Northern California.
“I take great responsibility in trying to preserve the Green Valley tradition,” Gehlken said. “I take it as a great privilege every day to continue what Rodger Fairless and Nick Garritano did here. It’s the ‘Green Valley way.’ These kids know when they come through the left-field gate they jog to the field. …
“Our high school season begins in the summer. We try to get the guys for next year some reps and try to figure out some roles. So when we start intramurals, we have a starting point and know who is coming in.”
Much like this past high school season, Gehlken doesn’t have any long-ball hitters on his summer team. But he does, however, have kids who are willing to play the right way. His No. 9 hitter leads the team in on-base percentage (.576) and has 23 runs scored.
“I don’t know if there’s a guy where other teams look at him and say, ‘We are not going to let him beat us,’ ” he said. “We have guys all throughout the lineup, (Nos.) 1 through 9. People probably describe us as a small-ball team, but our plan is to outhit you. And if that doesn’t work, we have a Plan-B. That’s putting pressure on the defense, bunting. I’m not using it as much as you think. Our biggest small-ball item is stealing bases.”
Gehlken’s Plan-A hasn’t been a problem this summer, as four of his players have batting averages over .400, with sophomore infielder A.J. Amelburu leading the way at .479.
It also helps that five starters off of last summer’s U-16 state championship-winning team are now on the older team.
Matt Gilbertson, also a sophomore, leads the team with 26 RBIs for the GV Elite, who have gotten three wins and three saves from junior Spencer Cofer off the mound. The right-hander also has a 2.90 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 29.1 innings of work.
Despite having all of the talent and the tournament’s No. 1 seed, Gehlken won’t stop using a certain ploy going forward.
“I always try to portray us as the underdog,” he said. “Or that we may not be good enough. I try that tactic. But I just tell them to play the game and not the opponent. Who cares who we play?”
Contact reporter Ashton Ferguson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0430. Follow him on Twitter: @af_ferguson.