Rams win opener in Western Regional tourney

David Modler went 2-for-5 with a double, three runs and four RBIs on Thursday to lead Rancho to a 9-5 win over Pomona (Colo.) in the opening game of the American Legion Western Regional in Surprise, Ariz.

Modler’s two-run double with two outs in the second inning gave the Post 8 Rams the lead for good at 3-1. Modler came around to score on an error to extend the lead to 4-1.

“We have a lot of confidence,” said Rancho coach Tom Pletsch. “I felt pretty comfortable coming in. We’ve been in a lot of tournaments, in a lot of big games, but it was good to get out to the lead.”

Josh Mill allowed just three hits and four walks while striking out nine in seven innings for Rancho (29-18), which will play Tucson (Ariz.) Badgers Post 7 at 5 p.m. Friday.

“Josh is a competitor,” Pletsch said. “He’s an incredible kid. Once we got that lead, it let him settle down.”

Pomona scored once in the fourth to cut the lead to 4-2 before Rancho exploded for four runs in the eighth.

Modler’s fielder’s choice plated one run, and Jose Verdugo knocked in two more with a double. Juan Cruz-Sanchez had an RBI ground out later in the inning to make the lead at 8-2.

Pomona threatened in the eighth, scoring twice before Verdugo came on in relief and got out of the inning on a rare 3-2-5 double play.

With one out in the eighth, potential tying run Zachary Matthes hit a bases-loaded grounder to first. Richie Coughlin fired home for a force out, and Rancho catcher Zach Barnhart faked a return throw to first before spinning and firing to third. Pomona’s runner rounded third and was caught off the base by Rancho’s David Camberos to end the inning.

“That was a big play,” Pletsch said. “I think that really put the game away.”

Modler’s RBI single in the ninth made it 9-4, but Pomona scored once in the ninth and had the bases loaded again before Verdugo got potential tying run Zachary Langerak on a fly ball to left field to end the game.

Verdugo was 2-for-5 with a double and three RBIs, and Abel Martinez was 3-for-4 with two runs for Rancho.