It was a back-and-forth affair Friday, with three lead changes and Centennial leaving a small village on the base paths.
But when Zack Simon stepped to the plate, his at-bat ended any doubts that his Bulldogs’ baseball team was going to win the game.
The junior left fielder drilled a bases-clearing double to left-center field to tack on a few insurance runs, and the Bulldogs won the losers’ bracket final of the Sunset Region against Spring Valley, 7-3.
“I just kept my head on it and hoped for the best,” Simon said. “We hit it out there and scored a bunch.”
Centennial (24-9-1) will play Bishop Gorman (29-4) at noon Saturday, with the Bulldogs needing two wins to claim the region title. Bishop Gorman beat Centennial 7-5 in the winners’ bracket final on Thursday.
“I feel like we can get them,” Simon said. “We tried our best last time, we can get them this time.”
Spring Valley (25-9) started the game with back-to-back doubles and had a 1-0 lead before the seats were warm. Centennial grabbed the lead with two in the second, the Grizzlies plated one in the fourth and fifth to take the lead back, and Centennial trailed 3-2 going into its half of the fifth.
Which isn’t to say the Bulldogs didn’t have their chances. They left at least two runners on base in each of the first five innings, left the bases loaded in the third, and stranded 12 for the game. They drew eight walks as a team.
In the fifth inning, Centennial seized the lead for good. After escaping a first-and-third, nobody-out jam in the top of the fifth by picking off the running at third and rolling a double play, Garrett Holden started the Centennial fifth with a walk, and Brett Berger reached on an error.
Simon singled, and Holden was thrown out at home. Three batters later, senior Jake Rogers singled in Berger and Simon with two outs to give the Bulldogs a 4-3 lead.
Centennial then loaded the bases in the sixth, and Simon unloaded them. Rogers, who also pitched the sixth, worked a perfect seventh and punctuated it with a strikeout to end the game and earn the save.
Bishop Gorman had Friday off, while Centennial had to qualify for the region finals and will have to fight the fatigue that will come with playing its fifth game in five days.
“What you see as a disadvantage we see as an opportunity,” Centennial coach Charles Cerrone said with a grin.
Spring Valley 14, Desert Oasis 10 — At Centennial, Nick Rupp reached base all five times he came to the plate, finishing a homer shy of the cycle, and the Grizzlies pounded out 20 hits to win a slugfest against the Diamondbacks in an elimination game.
Rupp went 4-for-4 with two doubles, a triple, walk, two runs and two RBIs for the Grizzlies, who led 10-0 midway through the third inning.
Spring Valley’s Jonathan Bakken went 4-for-5 with a double and two runs, Braxton Bruschke doubled and knocked in three from the No. 9 spot in the order, and Jaxon Otis had three RBIs.
Leadoff hitter Kade Higgins singled and scored in each of his first three at-bats for the Grizzlies.
Chaison Miklich and Aaron Roberts both hit two-run home runs and had three RBIs for the Diamondbacks (25-11). Miklich also doubled.
Gage Ventura went 4-for-4 with a double and three RBIs for Desert Oasis, and Kyle Fuentes was 3-for-4 with two doubles and three runs. Teammate Parker Schmidt hit a double.