Sometimes the most important lessons in sports are learned off the field.
On Sunday, Reno High baseball coach Pete Savage was consoling his team after an opening-round loss in the American Legion state tournament when he learned his father had died following several months of declining health.
The death of Len Savage, who founded and coached the program for nearly two decades beginning in the early 1980s, came as a blow not only to Pete Savage but also to his players.
Savage flew home to be with his family after Sunday’s game, and he and his father were on the minds of the Knights’ players Tuesday.
Sixth-seeded Reno jumped ahead early and hung on to upset No. 2 Rancho 9-8 in an elimination game at Wilson Stadium.
The Knights will attempt to keep the momentum rolling when they face Green Valley at 8 p.m. today.
“The guys all appreciate having this great program and everything (Len) Savage started for them,” assistant coach Jake Johnson said. “They were very pumped up tonight, and I’m sure Pete will be really excited when he hears about (the win).”
Reno led 5-0 after the second inning but was forced to hold off a late Rams rally with the help of a two-run, bases-loaded single by Robert Lujan in the top of the ninth.
“That hit was huge,” said Johnson, whose team took a 9-6 lead into the bottom of the inning. “With (Rancho) coming back to score two more runs, that hit really won the game for us.”
Reno catcher Shawn Walters, who went 2-for-4 with a home run, said the week’s events have taught him a little about perseverance.
“Coach hates to lose, but this was one of those situations where he had to leave,” Walters said. “We really wanted to win this game because his dad established this team and has been around the program forever.”
Kevin Kline went 3-for-4 to lead the Rams, and teammate Scott Koenen hit a two-out, two-run homer to close the gap to 9-8 in the ninth.
Knights reliever Troy Hansen was called in to secure the victory by logging the final out.
Las Vegas 16, Green Valley 5 — Xavier Palmer went 3-for-6 with five RBIs to help the Wildcats rally past the Gators in a winners’ bracket game.
Green Valley jumped ahead 3-0 early, but Palmer’s three-run homer capped a six-run fifth inning that put Las Vegas ahead for good at 6-3.
Robert Melendrez went 3-for-6 with two doubles to help the Wildcats, who finished with 18 hits.
Tyler Blair went 2-for-4 with two RBIs to lead the Gators.
Rancho 000 031 202 – 8 13 4
Borsum, Hansen (9) and Walters; Holdren, Pletsch (9) and Chavira. W–Borsum. L–Holdren. Sv–Hansen. 2B–Ren: Wood; Ran: Pletsch, Koenen, Cruz, Kline. HR–Ren: Walters; Ran: Koenen.
Green Valley 002 102 000 – 5 8 3
Acosta, Mora (8) and Herring, Cheney; Shiroky, Uran (5), Bradley (8), Durbin (9) and Vergiels. W–Acosta. L–Shiroky. 2B–LV: Jensen, Melendrez 2, Herring; GV: Douglas, Blair 2. HR–LV: Palmer, Acosta; GV: Harper.