Basic High baseball coach Scott Baker was determined to see his team live or die on the pitching arm of Nick Thompson on Saturday.
Though the senior right-hander spotted Rancho an early five-run lead, he recovered convincingly and his offense provided plenty of support to help the Wolves win the Sunrise Region championship with a 12-10 victory at Green Valley.
Thompson went 5⅓ innings, scattering seven hits. He struck out five and walked two to help Basic (30-5) advance to the state tournament, which begins Thursday at Bishop Manogue High in Reno.
The Rams (29-8) grabbed the early momentum with a five-run second inning that featured RBI doubles by Anthony Guzman and Chayse Baker, and a two-run home run by Joey Walls.
Scott Baker acknowledged his concern, but said he stuck with Thompson because of his reputation for strong performances in big games.
“With (Rancho starting pitcher Jimmy) Gamboa on the mound, it didn’t look good after that inning,” he said. “But Nick has been in that spot before. He loves it.”
Thompson said he knew it was his game to win or lose, and he chose to look past the rough inning.
“I just threw strikes so I could give my team a chance to win it,” he said.
As Thompson’s effectiveness improved, his offense capitalized on nearly every opportunity. After scoring two runs in the bottom of the second, the Wolves erupted for seven in the third to take a 9-5 lead. The rally included RBI doubles by Christian Rivero, Kyle Turner and Jesse Fonteboa.
“We were disciplined,” Scott Baker said. “It was a culmination of a bunch of different things. We took a lot of pitches and got a lot of free passes, and we took advantage.”
Basic added three security runs in the fifth, which proved significant when the Rams scored three in the sixth with the help of a run-scoring wild pitch and a two-run double by Layton Walls to cut the deficit to 12-8. Thompson was pulled with one out in the inning, and reliever Garrett Giles was able to squelch the rally.
But Rancho wasn’t done, making the most of a walk and and error to cut it to 12-10 on a two-run single by Chayse Baker with two outs in the top of the seventh. Wolves’ reliever C.J. Dornak finally struck out Joey Walls with a runner on to end the game.
Scott Baker attributed much of the victory to the fact that his team earned Friday off by coming through the winners’ bracket.
“That played into everything,” he said. “We got rest, and they didn’t get rest. They had to play two extra games while we were sitting.”
Rivero, Turner, Giles and Zach Hose had two hits apiece to lead Basic’s offense.
Chayse Baker went 2-for-4 with a double and three RBIs to lead Rancho, and teammates Guzman and Layton Walls each went 2-for-4 with an RBI.