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Rancho falls in extra innings in Legion region title game

Blake Vierra’s sacrifice fly with one out in the bottom of the 11th inning Monday lifted Chico (Calif.) to a 7-6 win over Rancho in the championship game of the American Legion Western Regional in Surprise, Ariz.

Nick Jackson drew a four-pitch walk with one out to start the rally and moved to third on Lucas Corriea’s double to right field before Greg Darms was intentionally walked to load the bases.

Vierra then hit a 1-2 pitch in the air to center field, and Jackson tagged and raced home. The throw short-hopped Rancho catcher Zach Barnhart, allowing Jackson to score the winning run for Chico, which beat Tucson (Ariz.) Post 7, 12-5 in the first game Monday to earn a spot in the final.

Rancho (31-20) nearly scored in the top of the 11th inning, but Robert Spinelli’s fly ball with two runners on and two out was caught on the warning track to end the inning.

“It was a very frustrating game for a lot of reasons,” said Rancho coach Tom Pletsch. “Our kids played their hearts out, and their kids played their hearts out.”

Rancho trailed 4-1 after three innings but rallied to tie the game in the fourth before falling behind again 6-5 after six innings. Zach Barnhart’s one-out single in the eighth inning plated Jose Verdugo with the tying run.

The Post 8 Rams had 12 hits and drew 11 walks, but stranded 16 runners on base, including 10 in the final six innings.

“That was the key. We left a lot of runners on base,” Pletsch said.

Rancho also worked out of jams, throwing out a runner at the plate from right field in the seventh inning and escaping a bases-loaded situation in the bottom of the ninth.

“We were the only team down here that was a high school team,” Pletsch said. “All these teams were a minimum five or six high schools and college players. I’ve got nine guys coming back, and this will carry us into the offseason and into next season.

“These kids are going to be competing for titles next year.”

Barnhart finished 5-for-6 with two RBIs. Juan Cruz-Sanchez and Abel Martinez each went 2-for-4 for the Post 8 Rams.

Corriea was 4-for-6 for Chico, which lost its first game of the tournament, but rattled off five straight wins to earn a spot in the American Legion World Series, which begins Thursday in Shelby, N.C.

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