Virgin Valley’s Tanner Tichenor wasn’t worried when the two-time defending champs began Saturday in serious jeopardy of missing the Class 3A state baseball tournament.
The junior right-hander backed that confidence with what coach Boyd Wittwer called “the game of his life.”
Tichenor pitched a two-hit shutout to lead host Virgin Valley to an 8-0 victory over Boulder City in the finale of the 3A Southern League playoffs and into the state tournament. The Bulldogs beat the Eagles 8-6 earlier Saturday to set up the winner-take-all nightcap.
“(Tichenor) was fantastic,” Wittwer said. “He’s probably been our No. 4 or 5 pitcher all year, and to come in and do that, he did a great job.”
Tichenor (2-0) had pitched only 8 1/3 innings all season entering the finale. He walked one, hit a batter and struck out six in his first complete game of the season.
“It’s one of the best (games) of my career,” Tichenor said. “We knew we had to come back and get it. I was feeling good this morning when I woke up. I knew it would be a good day.”
Indeed it was for the Bulldogs (22-8), who kept alive their hopes for a possible third straight 3A state title.
Virgin Valley opens the state tournament against North No. 3 seed Dayton at 1 p.m. Thursday at Wooster High in Reno.
“This group of kids has been together since they were 9, 10 years old,” Wittwer said. “They’ve had their backs against the wall a lot of times over the years.
“One of the keys to this game is dealing with adversity, and boy, they did it. We could have folded up, especially this morning. I knew if we got through that game this morning, we’d have a great chance.”
Boulder City (13-15) led 3-0 after three innings of the first game and appeared headed to wrapping up the series, 2-0.
But Virgin Valley exploded for seven runs in the fourth, including a three-run home run by Victor Ruvalcaba and three-run single by Brandt Eaton, to take the lead for good.
The Bulldogs carried that momentum into the second game, scoring eight runs over the first three innings.
Jason Wittwer belted a two-run homer in the third inning of the nightcap and Zach Horlacher was 3-for-4 with three RBIs. Tichenor doubled twice, and Jason Wittwer, Eaton and Ruvalcaba added two hits apiece.
“One thing that hurt us a little bit early in the tournament was we were a little too high and wired,” Boyd Wittwer said of Friday’s 8-6 loss to Boulder City.
“When we got back into that second game, they started to settle down and remember what they’d been doing instead of trying to win everything with one swing. Then things started to happen.”
Colton Schultz had two hits in the first game for Boulder City.
At Mountain View, Jake Acuna pitched a five-hitter in the championship game as Needles (21-7) defeated The Meadows, 14-1 in five innings for the 2A Southern League title.
Matt McAndrews went 2-for-3 with a double, three runs and three RBIs for Needles, which scored six runs in both the second and third innings.
Both teams advanced to the state tournament, which begins Friday in Carson City.
The Meadows 19, Lincoln County 12 — Garrett Gosse went 3-for-5 with a double, three runs and two RBIs as the Mustangs (17-11) earned a spot in the championship game by beating the Lynx (14-7).
The Mustangs had an 8-5 lead after three innings, then scored six runs on only one hit — a Michael DeGori double — in the fourth to push the edge to 14-5.
Tyler Center and Jason Wheatley each went 3-for-4 with a double and two runs for the Lynx.
At Indian Springs, Chase Hansen went 4-for-4 with a double, an RBI and four runs scored to help Pahranagat Valley (21-2) rout Henderson International 15-3 in five innings in the Class 1A Southern Region championship game.
Dustin Poulsen scored four runs and had two RBIs for the Panthers, who bolted to a 6-0 first-inning lead.
Charles Pachas and Keenan Gladd-Brown each doubled for the Wolverines (19-12).
Both teams advanced to the state tournament, which begins Thursday in Reno.