Alexander Marco already was 3-for-3 with a double when he stepped to the plate with the score tied at 4 in the bottom of the eighth inning Sunday night.
The Cimarron-Memorial outfielder wasted no time in driving a two-out RBI single to center field, leading the Spartans to a 5-4 victory over Reno in the opening round of the American Legion state tournament at UNLV’s Wilson Stadium.
The win lifted the third-seeded Spartans into the winners’ bracket, where they will play Bishop Gorman in a second-round game at 8 p.m. Tuesday. The sixth-seeded Knights will face Las Vegas in an elimination game at 5 Tuesday.
Though Cimarron blew a late lead, coach Mike Hubel said he trusted his players to battle back.
“We responded well by getting that run with two outs,” he said. “Marco’s only a freshman. He gave us the win with that hit.”
Both teams scored unearned runs in the first inning, and the game remained tied at 1 until Cimarron scored a run on a wild pitch in the fifth and two runs on RBI singles by Jayson Hicks and Ryan McHale in the sixth.
The Knights got one back in the sixth inning to cut their deficit to 4-2, but the Spartans appeared to be in control with starter Joshua Nuernberg tossing a four-hitter through seven innings.
But Reno’s Graham MacMillan reached first on a strikeout that got away from Cimarron catcher Hicks in the eighth inning, and Jeremy Peterson followed with a wind-aided home run to right field off Spartans reliever Matt Mosca to tie it at 4.
“It was one bad pitch,” Hubel said. “You hear that a lot in baseball, and it happened to us.”
Cimarron’s Gerald Robbins was hit by a pitch with one out in the bottom of the inning, and McHale reached on a fielder’s choice to set up Marco’s heroics.
Mosca tossed a hitless ninth inning to secure the victory.
Nick Borowski went 3-for-4 to help Cimarron, and Hicks went 2-for-4 with two RBIs.
In the late game, Cadyn Grenier went 3-for-5 with two doubles and an RBI to help second-seeded Bishop Gorman roll to a 10-5 win over No. 7 Las Vegas.
Cole Krzmarzick, Nick Gates and Matt Hudgins each added two hits for Gorman. Teammate Jack Little held Las Vegas to one earned run over seven innings to get the victory.
Kevin Rocha and Mac Lockett each had two hits for Las Vegas.
Today’s second-round action will feature a 5 p.m. elimination game between Centennial and Palo Verde, and an 8 p.m. winners’ bracket game between Desert Oasis and Liberty.