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Left-hander benefits from teammates’ three home runs

Green Valley’s Keola Paragas has been stingy on the mound all season for the Gators, but the senior left-hander hasn’t always gotten a ton of offensive support.

The Gators gave him plenty Tuesday.

Green Valley blasted three home runs to back Paragas in a 10-4 win at Rancho.

“That might be the most runs we’ve scored with him on the mound,” Gators coach Corey Gehlken said.

Third-ranked Green Valley (21-7, 9-0 Northeast League) hadn’t scored more than six runs in any of Paragas’ outings this season, and three times the team had managed just one run.

But Troy Cropper, Keaton Smith and Paragas homered to help make sure it wouldn’t take a shutout to win Tuesday.

“I think the wind was blowing a little bit, but we hit a couple good balls,” Gehlken said. “We were driving the ball in the right part of the yard.”

Cropper’s two-run shot to right field in the first inning gave the Gators a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Rancho (21-8, 6-3) threatened in the bottom of the inning when Paragas walked Bryce Harrell and Dylan Pletsch reached on catcher’s interference.

But Paragas struck out the next three batters, all looking.

“That’s what he’s been great at all year,” Gehlken said. “That’s why I think he’s kind of that next-level pitcher. When things are going good, it’s easy. It’s when you’re struggling — you get a bad situation with a walk and a catcher’s interference — that can be a quick momentum change. He beared down and made sure they didn’t (score) there, and that was a huge momentum save for our side.”

Green Valley capitalized immediately, scoring four runs in the second to chase Rancho starter Kavion Kealoha. Cody Milner’s two-run triple highlighted the inning.

Smith hit a solo homer in the third, and Paragas had a solo shot to start a three-run seventh for the Gators, who secured the Northeast League crown with the win.

“That’s a great win. That locks up the league, the No. 1 seed, for sure,” Gehlken said. “It’s great for these kids to have a league championship now.”

Paragas allowed two earned runs on six hits with nine strikeouts and three walks. Anthony Hatch was 3-for-4, Cropper was 2-for-2 with three RBIs, and Milner and Smith each went 2-for-4.

David Modler hit a two-run homer for No. 6 Rancho, and Jose Verdugo was 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs.

Contact prep sports editor Damon Seiters at dseiters@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4587. Follow him on Twitter: @DamonSeiters.

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