After finger injury, Ortiz comes around on mound

A broken finger in the offseason left Las Vegas High’s Miguel Ortiz playing catch-up early this season.

After pitching a complete game in a 10-3 victory over visiting Rancho on Thursday, it looks as if Ortiz is finding his form with time to spare.

Ortiz scattered six hits and struck out four as the Wildcats (8-5) remained unbeaten in the Northeast League at 5-0.

“He couldn’t throw a baseball for three weeks. It set him back,” Las Vegas coach Sam Thomas said. “He is just now getting where he was at the beginning of last year.”

Ortiz had one tough inning, the third, when Rancho scored its three runs on six hits. The senior right-hander blanked the Rams after that, striking out three over the final four innings.

“In the last two weeks (Ortiz) has probably been the most focused I’ve ever seen him,” Thomas said.

Las Vegas gave Ortiz all the offense he needed in the second inning with four runs on five hits off Rancho ace Justin Neubauer. Robert Melendrez (triple), Ortiz and Bryce Harper (doubles) and Brig Jensen (single) had run-scoring hits.

Rancho (13-2, 2-1) responded in the third, getting RBI triples by Brandon Pletsch and Eric Holdren.

“They’re not going to lay down,” Thomas said of Rancho. “They’re going to keep scrapping. They are a much-improved team.”

Las Vegas took a 5-3 lead into the sixth, then scored five runs on five hits to pull away. Trevor Lowe had an RBI double, and Quinnton Mack and Ortiz added RBI singles.

Ortiz finished 2-for-3.

“That goes right along with the focus thing,” Thomas said. “He has cut down his swing tremendously, and he’s focusing not only in the bullpen but in drills. He’s doing a good job.”

Jensen, Harper, Wes Grass and Melendrez supplied two hits apiece to the Wildcats’ 13-hit attack. Rancho committed six errors, Las Vegas none.

“(Las Vegas) didn’t make the mental mistakes on defense, and that’s part of our growing pains right now,” Rancho coach Tom Pletsch said. “We’re still learning and just not executing.”

Rancho now hopes to win the rest of its league games heading into a May 1 rematch with Las Vegas. If both finish with one loss, the winner of the second matchup will get the Northeast’s top playoff seed.

“We’re looking to May 1,” Tom Pletsch said. “We’ve still got four weeks to mature until we get to that point.”

Contact Prep Sports Editor Damon Seiters at dseiters@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4587.

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