Sierra Vista took the field Thursday hoping to earn an opportunity to play for the American Legion baseball state championship. By the end of the night, the Lions were thinking about 2010.
Zachary Sanford went 4-for-6 with four doubles and four RBIs to help the sixth-seeded Reno Knights eliminate No. 2 Sierra Vista with a 20-12 semifinal victory in the state tournament at Wilson Stadium.
Reno (39-15) moved into Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. championship against top-seeded defending state champion Bishop Gorman (56-12), a 10-5 winner over Rancho (21-19). Saturday’s winner advances to the Western Regional tournament in Fairfield, Calif., which begins Aug. 6.
Sierra Vista (42-17) wasn’t without plentiful opportunities against Reno. The Lions had 21 hits, but left 14 runners on base and committed 11 errors.
“We gave them 21 extra at-bats,” said Sierra Vista coach Levi Gill, whose pitchers walked six batters and hit three. “You don’t deserve to win when you do that.”
Gill said he would leave the stadium already focused on next season. “We think we’re in it every year,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of young guys who can play ball.”
Sierra Vista took a 2-0 lead on Nicholas Kingham’s RBI triple and a run-scoring wild pitch by Reno starter John Borsum. But it didn’t last long, with an RBI double by Sanford sparking a five-run third by Reno.
“It was a pretty good day for me,” Sanford said. “I just tried to do what I needed to do to get the team in the championship game.”
Sierra Vista kept the deficit within reach, however, scoring three runs in the eighth to trim the deficit to 15-11. But Reno again answered, piling up five more runs on four hits in the ninth.
Shawn Walters also had a big night for the Knights, going 5-for-6 with two doubles and four RBIs.
Though Reno coach Pete Savage was surprised by the final score, he said the victory was tougher than it looked.
“This really wasn’t an easy game,” he said. “Sierra Vista showed a lot of heart by staying out there and competing. They battled until the end.”
Savage said his team’s strategy was not affected by the Lions’ sloppy play.
“Our mentality is to take things pitch by pitch and inning by inning,” the coach said. “We try not to get caught up in our opponents’ play.”
Six Lions finished with multiple hits, led by Matt Holman, who was 3-for-6 with a home run, double and three RBIs. Andrew Garcia was 4-for-6 with a double and a triple.
BISHOP GORMAN 10, RANCHO 5 — In Thursday’s late game, the Titans fell behind early before rallying to eliminate the Rams in the other semifinal.
Joey Rickard went 2-for-5 to lead Gorman, which scored six runs with two outs in the eighth inning to break a 4-4 tie. Kenneth Meimerstorf and Rickard had key RBI hits in the inning.
Kevin Kline went 3-for-5 with an RBI to pace the Rams, who led 3-0 after the first inning.