If Rancho baseball coach Tom Pletsch could choose one player from his team to bat with the bases loaded, it would be Zach Barnhart.
Barnhart came up twice in those situations Tuesday, and the senior came through both times.
Barnhart, a UNLV signee, finished 4-for-5 and drove in six runs as the visiting Rams outlasted Las Vegas, 13-9.
Jimmy Gamboa was 3-for-3 with three runs scored and two RBIs for Rancho, which clinched the No. 6 seed from the Division I Sunrise League with the victory. Las Vegas will be the No. 7 seed for the Sunrise Region tournament, which begins Tuesday.
“Collectively, we’ve been hitting the ball a lot better the second half of the season,” Pletsch said. “The kids are working hard in the cages and on the field every day, and we’re starting to see some big improvements.”
Barnhart came to the plate in the top of the second inning with the bases loaded and lifted a high fly ball that Las Vegas’ right fielder lost in the sun. All three runners scored on the sun-aided single to put the Rams (18-13, 10-9 Sunrise League) on top, 5-0.
Barnhart, who doubled in a run in the sixth, added a two-run double in the seventh with the bases loaded to give the Rams a 13-9 advantage.
“Zach is our leader,” Pletsch said. “He’s the heart and soul of this program this year. … He’ll be sorely missed, but UNLV’s got a gem.”
Braulio Santiaguin and Anthony Becerra each went 2-for-3 with two runs, Anthony Guzman was 2-for-4 with two runs and an RBI, and Chayse Baker also was 2-for-4 as Rancho banged out 16 hits against five Las Vegas pitchers.
Ryan Freimuth was 3-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored to lead the Wildcats (15-13, 9-10). Antonio Gaxiola was 2-for-4 with two doubles and three RBIs, and Hector Perez finished 2-for-4 and drove in two runs for Las Vegas.
Trey Chauncey, Diego Delgado and Nathan Freimuth also had two hits apiece for the Wildcats.
Perez singled in Ryan Freimuth to cut Rancho’s lead to 8-5 in the bottom of the fifth, and Gaxiola had a two-run double to right-center as part of Las Vegas’ four-run sixth inning. The Wildcats put two runners on in the seventh but were unable to cash in.
“The one thing with being a young team, all season long we get to the critical spot in the game, and we’ve closed the game sometimes, but the key is to do just that,” Pletsch said. “And too many times this year, we haven’t been able to close and finish. And today was a good game for us. We got up, we let them back in the game, and our kids didn’t quit and we finished.”
Contact reporter David Schoen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5203. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidSchoenLVRJ