Thursday was a big day for Las Vegas High senior Wes Grass.
He made his first pitching appearance of the season, and he and his Wildcat teammates lived to play another day as they defeated Silverado 9-6 and Foothill 9-4 to stay alive in the Sunrise Region tournament at Las Vegas.
The Wildcats (26-10) play Foothill (18-15) at 1 p.m. today at Las Vegas. The winner takes on Green Valley (24-10) for the Sunrise title at 4 p.m.
The Sunrise winner advances to next week’s state tournament. The runner-up plays the No. 2 team from the Sunset at noon Saturday at Green Valley for the final berth at state.
Grass, who hadn’t pitched all season following a pair of offseason surgeries on his throwing shoulder, threw two scoreless innings of relief to save the win over Silverado (18-16).
“It was a rush,” Grass said of finally taking the mound. “I’ve been waiting for that all year. It’s been nine months since I’ve been able to throw, so getting on the mound in a big situation like that was huge for me.”
Grass allowed two hits and struck out three to close out the Silverado win.
“He lost a little bit on velocity, but his change-up was nastier than I’ve ever seen, and his slider was incredible,” Las Vegas coach Sam Thomas said.
Thomas said he’d planned on going the whole season without using Grass on the mound, but was approached by the player and his father on Monday. Grass threw a bullpen session after the team’s 11-6 loss to Las Vegas on Tuesday and convinced Thomas that he was ready to pitch.
“Wesley’s been chomping at the bit,” Thomas said. “He’s one of the most competitive guys I’ve ever met.”
Grass also scored the go-ahead run in the Silverado game, coming home on a rare strikeout by star catcher Bryce Harper.
With the game tied 5-5, Harper struck out on a pitch in the dirt. Grass, who had hit a one-out triple, broke for the plate when
Silverado’s catcher threw to first to get Harper, and Grass beat the return throw home to make it 6-5.
He finished 2-for-2 with two runs and two RBIs. Harper also hit a two-run home run in the Silverado game.
Against Foothill, the Wildcats scored four unearned runs in the top of the first and held on for the victory.
Quinnton Mack was 3-for-3 with two doubles, two runs and two RBIs, and Dillon Dove added three hits and two RBIs for Las Vegas.
Grass said the team is excited about its chances to continue its playoff run. The Wildcats have won three straight after losing to Silverado in the opening round.
“It’s huge. It’s really exciting,” Grass said. “We’ve gone 2-2 in the playoffs for the last four years I’ve been here, so to do something bigger than that is good. But it can’t end there. We’ve definitely got to make it to the state tournament. And after we do that, we get really excited for something.”
Green Valley 12, Coronado 3 — At Green Valley, the Gators used a two-out rally in the second to take control and advance to the Sunrise title game.
The Gators scored seven runs in the second, all with two outs, to take a 7-2 lead.
Bobby Shiroky went 3-for-4 with two runs, two RBIs and two stolen bases to lead Green Valley’s 13-hit attack.
John Carra (triple, two RBIs, two runs, Tyler Blair (two runs, RBI) and Rudy Strnad (one RBI) each added two hits for Green Valley.
Anthony Uran added a home run for the Gators.
Cody Giordano and Taylor Giordano each had a double for the Cougars, who finished 14-16.
Coronado 4, Rancho 1 — At Green Valley, Alex Watson went the distance, scattering eight hits and striking out five, as the Cougars eliminated the Rams.
Watson, Cody Giordano and R.J. Cash each went 2-for-3 for Coronado.
Zak Qualls was 2-for-4 for Rancho (27-8).