Erik Van Meetren isn’t the typical No. 8 hitter.
Then again, Bishop Gorman doesn’t have the typical baseball team.
Van Meetren, who could hit in the Nos. 3 or 4 spots for many high school teams in the state, put on a display at the bottom of the Gaels’ order Saturday.
The junior catcher, who entered the game hitting .341 with 27 RBIs, went 3-for-4 with two doubles and four RBIs as Gorman built an eight-run lead and held on for a 10-9 win over Sierra Vista in the Sunset Region championship game at Centennial.
The four-time defending Class 4A state champion Gaels (33-3), winners of 24 straight games, will meet Northern Region champion Reno to begin the state tournament at 4 p.m. Thursday at Bishop Manogue High School in Reno.
“I saw the ball well today,” Van Meetren said. “I had struggled against (Sierra Vista starter Nick) Kingham before, and I just wasn’t going to do it again. I needed to hit the ball today.”
Van Meetren hit in the clean-up spot most of last season for the Gaels but struggled early this season and was dropped in the batting order.
With a little less pressure to produce runs, Van Meetren flourished Saturday, stroking a bases-loaded single to left field in the first inning to break a 2-2 tie and give the Gaels the lead for good.
“I just try to go up there and hit the ball hard, do my job,” Van Meetren said. “I just want to help the team.”
He added RBI doubles in the third and fourth innings as the Gaels threatened to run away with the game.
“What a day he had in the eight hole,” Gorman coach Chris Sheff said. “He pretty much picked us up and led us offensively. He’s really started swinging the bat well the last few games.”
Sierra Vista (28-8), which twice lost to Gorman by a run in the regular season and fell to the Gaels 6-2 on Thursday, battled back with three runs in the fifth and four more in the sixth and loaded the bases with one out in the seventh inning.
But Cory Welch, the Gaels’ third reliever and the likely starter in a second championship game if Gorman had lost the opener, got Kingham to line out to shortstop, starting a game-ending double play.
“They didn’t quit, and I thought we went to sleep a little bit,” Sheff said. “That’s a testament to their program. They’re a quality program.”
Sierra Vista needed to beat the Gaels twice on Saturday to advance to state. Gorman, the winners’ bracket champion in the tournament, needed only one win.
Gorman’s offense was fantastic early in the game, forcing Kingham to throw 92 pitches just to get through the first three innings.
“That’s something we stress,” Sheff said. “We had some quality at-bats. Offensively, early on, we were very solid working counts and scoring runs.”
Johnny Field went 4-for-4, and Joey Gallo added two hits for the Gaels, who also were sharp defensively, turning three double plays.
Scotty Tomassetti was 2-for-3 with a home run and four RBIs, and Marquis Towers went 3-for-4 with three runs for the Mountain Lions.