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Palo Verde, Coronado survive in 5A state baseball openers — PHOTOS

Palo Verde starter Zach Bender lost his bid for a perfect game on a bloop single in the top of the sixth inning at the Class 5A baseball state tournament Thursday at Bishop Gorman.

He didn’t let his first base runner rattle him.

Bender, protecting a one-run lead against Bishop Manogue in an opening-round game, kept his opponent’s bats quiet. He recorded a shutout and struck out 11 batters as Palo Verde, the South’s No. 1 seed, held on for a 1-0 win against the Miners, the North’s No. 2 seed.

“I felt pretty good,” said Bender, who credited his defense afterwards. “Just knowing the guys behind me, that they got it, it’s good to have a good support system behind you.”

The Panthers (26-10) will play Coronado (23-13) in a winners’ bracket semifinal at 3 p.m. Friday for a spot in Saturday’s state title game. Coronado, the South’s No. 2 seed, scored in the top of the seventh inning to defeat Northern champion and No. 1 seed Reno High 5-4 in the other opening-round game.

The loser of Palo Verde-Coronado will face the winner of Manogue (21-15) and Reno (25-10) — who play an elimination game at 12:30 p.m. Friday — in an elimination game at 5:30 p.m. to determine the second team in Saturday’s title game. All of Friday’s games are at Faith Lutheran.

“This has been our goal the whole season, not only to make it to state but to win it,” Bender said. “It’s one step closer to that so it feels really good.”

Bender deals

After Bender gave up the single to Manogue’s Cinco Guillen in the sixth inning, Palo Verde catcher Connor Rosinski threw out Guillen as he tried to steal second base. Bender got a groundout and strikeout to end the inning.

Bender, a Loyola Marymount commit, ended the game in the seventh by getting Blaise Czyz to strike out swinging.

“Zach was really, really big,” Palo Verde coach Dustin Romero said. “(Manogue’s pitcher) was good on the mound, too, and kept us off balance. In these types of games, you expect this in the state tournament. It was awesome to pull out the win, and this one is big.”

Palo Verde stranded two runners on base in both the first and third innings. RL Chandler singled with one out in the fourth and went to third after a Barrett Johnson single. Chandler scored when Karsen Smaka beat out a double play for the Panthers’ lone run.

Jace Jeffries went 2-for-3 with two stolen bases for Palo Verde.

“We just need to keep our energy,” Romero said. “Mayson Reichartz is going to throw (Friday), so if he can match what Zach had, we’ll be in really good shape. We checked another box today and have a good opportunity (Friday).”

Coronado strikes late

Coronado got a clutch two-out hit from second baseman Jackson Thomsen when it needed it most Thursday.

Thomsen singled to right field, and Evan Festa raced home from second to put Coronado ahead 5-4 in the top of the seventh inning. Festa stranded a Reno base runner at third and pitched a scoreless bottom of the inning to seal the win.

“These guys continue to come through in the clutch,” Coronado coach Garrett Smith said. “Just a great hit by Jackson Thomsen and I was sending Festa the whole time, no doubt I knew he could (score). Then Festa came in and shut it down. It was a great job.”

Coronado took the lead early. Jase Pashales drove in Louis Dion with a two-out single in the first. The Cougars went up 3-0 in the third after Matthew Moreno Jackson blasted a two-out, two-run home run to right field.

Reno answered with a two-run double from Hunter Garrett in the bottom of the third. It scored again in the fourth to tie the game 3-3.

Coronado went ahead 4-3 in the top of the sixth when Thomsen scored on an error. Garrett responded with an RBI single in the bottom of the inning to tie the game again, setting up Thomsen’s huge hit.

Festa earned the win with two innings of relief and added a double. Thomsen went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored.

Palo Verde has won all three of its meetings against Coronado this season. Two came in the region playoffs last week. The Panthers won 3-1 in a winners’ bracket game on May 8 and beat the Cougars 11-0 in the region title game May 10.

“We’re hoping we can break the streak,” Smith said. “Palo is a great team and we think that we can match up pretty well against them, but we got to come out and prove it.”

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

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