Reno coach Pete Savage has been coaching long enough to know quality postseason pitching starts are rare in American Legion baseball.
Even so, he sent right-hander Vincent Koci to the mound Sunday hoping for at least a few strong innings.
Savage’s most optimistic hopes were realized, as Koci went the distance to help the sixth-seeded Knights defeat No. 3 Las Vegas 12-1 in the first round of the state tournament at UNLV’s Wilson Stadium.
The eight-inning victory lifted Reno (35-18) into the second round Tuesday, when it will play second-seeded Liberty (23-8) at 8 p.m. Las Vegas (24-10) faces No. 7 Cimarron-Memorial (24-10-1) in an elimination game at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Koci (6-2) allowed seven hits. He recorded only three strikeouts, but was able to rely on good control.
“Vinny is a command-type pitcher, and he was really locating his pitches,” Savage said.
Koci said he pitched to contact and relied on his fielders, who turned three double plays.
“I just tried to throw strikes,” he said. “I tried to do what I could for my team, and I let my defense help me out.”
Las Vegas was unable to overcome a bad break in the fourth inning when starting pitcher Dillon Dove was hit on the foot by a line drive off the bat of Graham MacMillan. Dove had to leave the game, and Las Vegas’ bullpen struggled.
“We knew (Dove) was a quality left-handed pitcher,” Savage said. “So that was an unfortunate situation for them.”
But the Knights began their 12-hit attack long before Dove was knocked out and had an 8-1 lead after four innings.
MacMillan got Reno rolling with an RBI single in the first and Kevin Wallace had one in the third to make it 2-0.
Las Vegas got a run back in the bottom half, exploiting a throwing error, but the game quickly got away. Reno erupted for six runs in the fourth, getting four singles and three walks, plus a two-run throwing error by Las Vegas.
Reno sealed the victory with two runs in the seventh and eighth innings.
Garrett Hampson went 4-for-5 with two RBIs to lead Reno. MacMillan and Wallace supplied two hits apiece.
“I thought our kids took advantage of their opportunities at the plate,” Savage said. “They fought hard for quality at-bats.”
Juan Deolarte was 3-for-4 to lead Las Vegas.
Liberty 5, Cimarron-Memorial 1 — Preston Pavlica went 2-for-4 with a two-run double to propel the Patriots past the Spartans.
Liberty jumped ahead 4-0 with a three-run second inning, capped by Pavlica’s double. Given an early lead, Marcos Rivera made it stand up by holding Cimarron to six hits while striking out eight.
Rivera also went 2-for-4, as did Michael Vargas.