Werner’s homer lifts Bengals, sinks Gators

Mike O’Rourke was standing about 10 feet away from the play, so the Bonanza baseball coach knew better than anyone if the Bengals caught a break.

But he wasn’t about to divulge whether Alec Taft was out.

“The umpire called him safe,” O’Rourke said diplomatically. “His opinion is the only one that matters.”

Keith Werner broke open a close game in the fifth inning with a three-run home run shortly after the Bengals benefitted from a controversial call, and visiting Bonanza went on to a 9-5 victory over Green Valley on Friday.

“The kids come out and play hard and give their best effort,” O’Rourke said. “To come over here and get a win is big.”

Bonanza (6-3) took a 5-4 lead in the fifth inning on Taft’s run-scoring single and had runners at first and third with two outs against reliever Ryan Jackson. Gators catcher Cody Milner tried to pick off Taft from third, and his throw appeared to be there in time.

But Taft was called safe after the umpires had a brief discussion, giving the Bengals new life. Two pitches later, Werner launched a 3-1 pitch over the left-center field fence to cap a five-run inning and put Bonanza on top, 8-4.

“Keith is such a hard-working, great kid in our program,” O’Rourke said. “He gets up there and battles and is focused 100 percent of the time.”

Werner finished 4-for-4 with three RBIs and scored twice.

“Keith is not an everyday guy for us,” O’Rourke said. “He got an opportunity to get in the lineup and DH, and he made the most of it.”

The Gators (6-3) got a run back in the bottom of the fifth against Taft as Milner led off with a double and eventually scored on a wild pitch. But Troy Cropper popped out to Taft to end the game with runners on first and second.

“(The pickoff play) was a big part of the game, but there were still two innings to go and outs to get,” O’Rourke said. “We talk all the time about how we’ve got to keep playing.”

Taft pitched a complete game and finished 2-for-3 with three RBIs, while teammate Hunter Junge was 3-for-4. Junge also threw out two runners trying to steal.

Green Valley scored three times in the second to erase an early 3-1 deficit. Jarod Penniman laid down a perfect suicide-squeeze bunt for the first run of the inning, and Milner added a run-scoring groundout.

Garrett Rogers had two of the Gators’ seven hits.

Contact reporter David Schoen at or 702-387-5203. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSchoenLVRJ.