Chris Verdugo had just two at-bats coming into play on Friday, but the Rancho junior made the most of his opportunity to hit against Coronado.
Verdugo went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles, including a two-run double in the sixth that broke a 10-10 tie, as the Rams defeated the Cougars 14-10 at Green Valley to advance to the championship round of the Sunrise Region baseball tournament.
“Verdugo came clutch,” Rancho coach Manny Llamas said. “He’s been sitting on the bench for a while, and it was his time to get there. And he stepped up when we needed him most, and I’m really happy for Chris.”
Rancho (29-7) plays Basic (29-5) at noon on Saturday at Green Valley. Should Rancho win, a second game would be played to determine the champion.
The Rams took a 10-6 lead on a grand slam by Anthony Guzman in the bottom of the fifth, but the Cougars (21-12) answered with four runs in the sixth, capped by Boston Mabeus three-run homer to tie the game again.
Rancho loaded the bases in the bottom of the sixth on a double by Joey Walls, an intentional walk and a bunt single by Layton Walls. After a strikeout. Verdugo’s double one-hopped the fence in center field, bringing home two runs.
“I was kind of nervous the first two at-bats, but I got used to it,” said Verdugo, who doubled and scored in the fifth.
Edarian Williams added a two-run single for the final margin.
Joey Walls was 4-for-4 with two doubles, a homer, three RBIs and two runs to lead a 15-hit attack for Rancho, which defeated Green Valley 15-14 earlier Friday to stay alive in the double-elimination tournament.
Chayse Baker hit two triples, and Jimmy Gamboa and Guzman each added two hits for the Rams, who lost 21-6 to Coronado on Wednesday to fall into the losers’ bracket.
“We have a lot to go. We’re not even completely done yet,” Llamas said. “These guys have been grinding all year. They have a goal in mind, a goal in sight and they’re going to do whatever they can to get there.”
Christian Herrera was 2-for-4 with a two-run homer, and Taylor Darden was 3-for-3 with a double and three RBIs for Coronado.
Rancho 15, Green Valley 14 — Gamboa scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the seventh as the Rams rallied to eliminate the Gators.
Green Valley scored twice in the top of the seventh to take a 14-12 lead. Garrett Nelson had an RBI triple, and Gavin Amelburu drove in a run with a sacrifice fly for the Gators.
But Rancho rallied in the seventh, tying the game on Gamboa’s two-run ground-rule double.
Joey Walls was 2-for-4 with a homer, three runs and two RBIs, and Gamboa went 2-for-3 with three RBIs and two runs for Rancho.
Edarian Williams and Matthew Baughn each added a home run for Rancho. Six of the Rams’ 10 hits went for extra bases.
Amelburu was 2-for-4 with a home run and six RBIs, and Jake Empey went 3-for-4 with two homers and four RBIs for Green Valley, which finished 20-13.