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Palo Verde bats explode to claim 5A region baseball title — PHOTOS

Palo Verde set the tone in Friday’s Class 5A baseball Southern Region title game by scoring four runs in the second inning.

The Panthers used one more big inning to seal the win and begin the celebration early.

Palo Verde, the Mountain League’s No. 2 seed, sent 11 batters to the plate in a seven-run fourth inning and cruised to an 11-0 home victory over Coronado, the Desert League’s No. 2 seed. The game ended in the fifth inning due to the 10-run mercy rule.

“It feels awesome right now,” first-year Palo Verde coach Dustin Romero said. “There’s very, very good teams in Las Vegas. These boys have worked hard to be No. 1.”

Along with winning the region title, Palo Verde (25-10) will be the South’s No. 1 seed at next week’s state tournament. Coronado (22-13) will be the South’s No. 2 seed. Both teams will play a to-be-determined Northern opponent Thursday at Bishop Gorman.

“They came out with energy. That was going to be our goal with what Coronado had to go through this week (of playing an extra game),” Romero said. “From there, we stayed with our game plan all year.”

Palo Verde defeated Coronado 3-1 in a winners’ bracket game Wednesday to host Friday’s region title game and get a day off Thursday. Coronado defeated Green Valley 2-1 in eight innings Thursday to advance to Friday.

“It was huge for pitching, No. 1,” Romero said of getting the day off. “You get your legs underneath you a little bit with our players. Our position guys, they did a great job taking care of their bodies and doing what they’re supposed to do to be ready for today.”

Palo Verde, winner of 10 straight games, took advantage of taxed Coronado pitching. All nine Panthers batters reached base, eight scored runs, and eight recorded at least one RBI.

“It was really big, those big innings like that, with seven runs in the fourth and four runs in the second. It brings the other team down and just keeps us rolling,” said first baseman Tanner Johns, who had two RBIs.

Johns, an Oregon commit, drove in a pair of runs on a single in the second inning with two outs to highlight the four-run inning. Andrew Kaplan had an RBI single, and Luke Herrera scored on an error in the inning.

It was plenty of run support for starter Hayden Lucibello, who pitched a shutout. The left-hander allowed three base runners — on one hit and two walks — and struck out five on 69 pitches.

“The defense helped a lot, and our offense got going,” Lucibello said. “I felt good. I felt confident out there knowing I have a great defense, and my stuff felt great.”

Palo Verde had a chance to extend its lead in the third by getting the bases loaded with no outs, but Coronado got a forceout at home and turned a double play to end the inning.

The Panthers didn’t squander their scoring chances in the fourth, as they scored seven runs on five hits. With two outs, Ethan Clauss, a Texas A&M commit, drove in two runs on a single, and Jace Jefferies added a two-run triple to cap off the inning.

“We’ve talked all year about where we want to be at this point of the year, and it’s really nice to be able to explode in some innings,” Romero said.

Herrera went 2-for-2 with a walk, stolen base, an RBI and two run scored for Palo Verde. Evan Festa managed the lone hit for Coronado, a triple in the third, and added a walk.

Contact Alex Wright at awright@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlexWright1028 on X.

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