Sierra Vista baseball coach Levi Gill finally had something to cheer about Wednesday.
Gill’s squad, which has struggled to produce hits in key situations, finally broke through. Catcher Julian Cutolo went 3-for-5 with a double and four RBIs to help lift the fourth-seeded Lions to a seven-inning, 20-3 victory over No. 5 Coronado in the American Legion state tournament at Wilson Stadium.
Sierra Vista will play Bishop Gorman in a semifinal game Thursday at 8 p.m. Under the tourney’s double-elimination format, the Lions would need to beat top-seeded Gorman on Thursday and again Friday to advance to Saturday’s championship game.
The Cougars, who defeated the Lions 7-6 in the tourney’s opening round, were eliminated.
“There’s a greater sense of urgency now,” said Cutolo in explaining Wednesday’s offensive production. “We might not have the most talent, but we’re very scrappy.”
Cutolo, whose first-inning double drove in three runs to give Sierra Vista a 4-1 lead, said patience made the difference.
“I was just trying to hit the ball to right field,” he said. “They threw me inside the first time and I couldn’t get it. I finally figured it out and started turning on the ball.”
Though Gill said he was pleased with the offensive breakthrough, he still saw room for improvement.
“We had some guys who didn’t execute early,” Gill said. “But for the most part, we were able to put the ball in play.”
Sierra Vista blew the game open when Cutolo, Dusty Stevens, Alex Estrella and Jake Hager led off the third inning with consecutive singles. Three walks and a key error by the Cougars followed, enabling the Lions to score five runs for a 12-1 lead.
Coronado’s Steven Pollex hit a two-run homer in the fifth to cut the gap to 14-3.
But the Lions, who scored in every inning, answered with two more runs in the fifth inning and four in the sixth.
Green Valley 13, Reno 3 — The third-seeded Gators scored eight runs in the first two innings and cruised past the No. 6 Knights in seven.
Tyler Blair went 4-for-4 with a double and five RBIs to lead the Green Valley offense, and starter Nick Libonati held Reno to seven hits while striking out four over seven innings.
The loss eliminates the Knights.
Green Valley will face Las Vegas in another elimination game Thursday at 5.
Sierra Vista 435 224 x – 20 13 0
Oakley, Pollex (2), Howard (3) and Hauck; Stevens, Davis (7) and Cutolo. W–Stevens. L–Oakley. 2B–Cor: C. Giordano, Pollex; SV: Holman, Cutolo. HR–Cor: Pollex; SV: Hager.
Green Valley 352 120 x – 13 13 3
Erny, Hansen (2), Kukuk (5) and Walters, Warden; Libonati and Vergiels. W–Libonati. L–Erny. 2B–Ren: McElroy; GV: Van Hoosier, Blair. 3B–GV: Douglas, Whiteaker.