Boulder City baseball coach Bobby Reese decided to roll the dice Thursday and not start ace pitcher Tanner Howell in the Eagles’ state tournament opener.
Howell’s bat made sure the gamble paid off.
The senior hit two homers and drove in seven runs to lead Boulder City to a 16-5 win over Northern Region champion Elko in the Division I-A tournament at College of Southern Nevada.
“We came ready to hit today, because we know that’s our strong suit,” said Howell, who was 2-for-3 with four runs. “We saw a fastball, a pretty good fastball, but we like the fastball and we jumped on it.”
Howell launched a two-run homer down the left-field line in the top of the first inning to put the Eagles ahead for good. He clubbed a grand slam in the second and added a sacrifice fly in the fifth.
Boulder City (23-9) plays Faith Lutheran (28-3) in the winners’ bracket final at 9 a.m. today at CSN. The loser will play Elko (29-4) at 11:30 a.m. Elko stayed alive with an 11-5 win over Truckee (17-19) on Thursday.
While keeping Howell off the mound, the Eagles were able to outslug Elko.
“It was a gamble, there’s no doubt about it,” Reese said. “But I truly felt if we threw Tanner out of the gate, we were playing for second. We’ve seen Faith. They have three (pitchers) that are as good as anybody at any level. Tanner gives us a chance.”
After Howell’s two home runs, the Indians chose to walk him in his third plate appearance in the fourth, but cleanup hitter Bill Barth made them pay with a three-run homer that made it 9-1.
Barth added a solo homer down the left-field line in the fifth, and No. 5 hitter D.J. Koopman got one up into the wind in the seventh and the ball carried over the wall in left-center for a three-run homer.
“The ball was flying out of this park today, that’s for sure, with that wind blowing out,” Reese said.
The heart of Boulder City’s order — Howell, Barth and Koopman — combined to go 10-for-13 with five homers and 14 RBIs.
■u2007Faith Lutheran 15, Truckee 1 — Brandon Johnson fired a one-hitter, and the Crusaders jumped on the Wolverines early to win the opener in five innings.
Caleb Summerhays hit a three-run homer to left in the first inning.
“I think it helped everybody relax a little bit,” Faith Lutheran coach Blair Neagle said.
The Crusaders added 10 runs in the third and coasted. Eight starters had at least one hit for Faith Lutheran, which has relied on pitching all season.
“It’s nice to see everybody get hot at the right time,” Neagle said. “Our pitching’s been pretty good all year, so that’s kind of what we expected.”
Johnson struck out six over the first three innings and set down the first nine hitters before having to take a long break in the dugout during the 10-run inning.
He wasn’t as sharp when he came back, walking leadoff man Aaron Pado and allowing a single to Andy McKechnie. Pado scored on a double play, and Johnson set down the side in order in the fifth to end the game. He finished with eight strikeouts.
“He’s been like that all year,” Neagle said. “Our four starters have been outstanding all year.”
Neagle said Brenden Meyer would start today against Boulder City, with Erich Uelmen set to pitch the third game of the tournament.
“We’re going to go with the same rotation that we kept,” Neagle said. “If we can stay in our routine, we’ll be very lucky.”
■u2007Laughlin 10, Yerington 8 — At The Meadows, Jordan Shepherd hit a grand slam to cap a six-run sixth inning, and the Cougars rallied to beat the Lions in the Division III state tournament.
Laughlin (24-8) advances to face Needles (18-6) in a winners’ bracket game at 1 p.m. today at The Meadows. Yerington (21-9-1) meets Battle Mountain at 10 a.m. in an elimination game.
The Cougars trailed 5-0 and 7-3 before erupting in the sixth. Ryan Torrance and A.J. Nelson drew back-to-back bases-loaded walks before Shepherd’s blast, which was aided by a strong wind and tipped off the top of right fielder Dakota Thompson’s glove.
■u2007Needles 9, Battle Mountain 8 — At The Meadows, Aidan Shaver hit a walk-off single to score pinch runner Devin Darrow as the Mustangs scored twice in the bottom of the seventh to stun the Longhorns.
■u2007Round Mountain 9, Wells 2 — Serjio Chavez pitched a four-hitter, and the Knights scored six runs in the sixth inning to pull away from the Leopards in the Division IV tournament at Rancho.
Round Mountain (19-6) will meet Pahranagat Valley (22-6) in the winners’ bracket final at 10 a.m. today.
■u2007Pahranagat Valley 9, Carlin 6 — The Panthers used a six-run sixth to derail the Railroaders. Jordan Cryts was 2-for-3 with an RBI for the Panthers.