Silverado baseball coach Brian Whitaker has been around long enough to know that anything can happen in a nine-inning American Legion game.
The coach kept his players calm Sunday after they blew a three-run lead in the top of the ninth, and their patience was rewarded with a rally in the bottom of the inning.
Shortstop Michael Meyers drilled a walk-off triple with two outs, and the third-seeded Hawks defeated No. 6 Reno 6-5 in the opening round of the state tournament at UNLV’s Wilson Stadium.
Whitaker, noting that regular-season games go only seven innings, credited the Knights for rallying against Hawks bullpen ace David Kuzma.
“The guy we had out there was the guy we wanted out there,” said Whitaker, whose squad will play Rancho in a winners’ bracket game at 8 p.m. Tuesday. “But (Reno) can hit, and I credit them for that.”
Reno’s pitching also looked strong in the early innings, as starter Grant Kukok held the Hawks to just one hit through the first five.
Fortunately for Whitaker, that lone hit was a home run by first baseman Trevor Johnson to give Silverado a 1-0 lead.
“To be able to get that run in the first inning was big because it turned out we weren’t doing much hitting,” Whitaker said. “If there was a no-hitter on the board, who knows what the vibe would have been like in the dugout?”
The Knights (39-13) got the run back in the fourth after loading the bases with no outs off Silverado starter Luciano Balastracci.
Joshua Bravin came into relief and worked the Hawks out of the jam, but not before allowing Mitch Warden to drive in Ryan Bush with a scoring fly that tied the game at 1.
The Hawks (19-8-1) finally got to Kukuk in the sixth after loading the bases with one out.
A balk gave Silverado a 2-1 lead, and Anthony Ford homered later in the inning to extend the advantage to 4-1.
The Hawks led 5-2 heading into the ninth, but Reno’s Trevor McElroy had a two-run triple and later tied the score by crossing the plate on a wild pitch by Kuzma.
“That was frustrating, but we were confident we could come back,” said Meyers, whose game-winning hit drove in Dylan Brand from first base. “I was just looking for a good pitch, and I saw it well.”
Bush and Garrett Hampson each went 3-for-5 to lead Reno, which will play Sierra Vista in a loser’s bracket game at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Rancho 12, Sierra Vista 2 — Eric Holdren and Paul Matha combined for a two-hitter to lead the second-seeded Rams (33-8-1) past the No. 7 Lions (31-17) in seven innings.
Zak Qualls capped a six-run third with a two-run double for Rancho (33-8-1), and teammate Gabriel Chavira hit a two-run homer in the fourth.
Holdren went six innings to earn the win for the Rams, and he helped himself with a 4-for-5 performance at the plate.