With strong arms starting on both sides, Saturday’s American Legion state tournament championship game appeared to have the all the earmarks of a pitching duel.
Neither starter made it past the third inning, however, and top-seeded Bishop Gorman went on to outlast second-seeded Sierra Vista in a 17-10 slugfest to claim its third consecutive state crown at UNLV’s Wilson Stadium.
Erik Van Meetren and Scott Dysinger each went 3-for-5 with a double and three RBIs for the Gaels (65-7-1), who advance to next week’s Western Regional tournament in Surprise, Ariz. Opening-round play will begin Thursday.
“I’m proud of these guys,” said Gorman coach Chris Sheff, whose squad chased Lions starter Kiel Harmon after one inning. “It’s always exciting when you can win a state championship.”
Sierra Vista (42-11) jumped ahead early, with Jake Hager driving in a run with an infield single to give the Lions a 1-0 first-inning lead.
But Joey Rickard answered with a leadoff homer to get Gorman even in the bottom of the inning, and Paul Sewald capped the six-run uprising with the first of his two home runs to give the Gaels a 6-1 lead.
Gorman’s advantage didn’t last long, as Lance Ray’s three-run double capped a five-run second inning for Sierra Vista to tie the score at 6.
“The good thing about these tournaments is that the games last nine innings,” said Sheff, who pulled starter Donn Roach in the third inning. “So even though the score was 6-6 after the first two innings, there was really still a whole high school game left.”
Gorman again answered, jumping on Lions relief pitcher Justin Baca for two runs in the second. But Sierra Vista did the same to Sewald, a Gaels reliever, in the third to tie it again at 8.
Gorman took the lead for good with two runs in the fourth inning and added four more in the sixth.
“We felt good once we got the lead at 10-8,” Sheff said.
Sewald picked up the victory while going 2-for-5 with four RBIs for the Gaels, who finished with 20 hits.
Hager went 2-for-5 with a home run and two RBIs for Sierra Vista.
Sheff said he expects his team to fare well in next week’s tournament.
“Our chances are good,” he said. “(The state tournament) is the one that’s hardest to win. We have the arms, and we can swing the bats.”