When Chad Whiteaker feels relaxed at the plate, opposing pitchers can expect a long day.
The Green Valley third baseman definitely found his groove Sunday. He went 3-for-4 with a home run, two RBIs and a go-ahead single to lead the third-seeded Gators to an 8-3 opening-round victory over No. 6 Reno in the American Legion state tournament at Wilson Stadium.
The win lifted Green Valley into the tournament winners’ bracket. The Gators will face No. 7 Las Vegas in a second-round game at 8 p.m. Tuesday.
“I just felt comfortable at the plate,” said Whiteaker, whose sixth-inning RBI single put the Gators ahead for good at 4-3. “I’ve been seeing the ball well lately.”
The Knights kept the score close early, overcoming Whiteaker’s fourth-inning solo homer and going ahead 3-2 on back-to-back RBI doubles by Patrick Gallagher and Anthony Hascheff in the sixth.
But the Gators answered in the bottom of the inning, tying it on a double by Tyler Blair and going ahead on Whiteaker’s timely single.
“Chad has had a great summer,” said Green Valley coach Levi Matherly. “It’s good to see guys come out and hit on the big stage. That’s (how) we try to prepare these kids.”
Matherly’s pitcher also came up big. Starter Nolan Kohorst (8-1) went the distance, holding the Knights to six hits while striking out six.
“Nolan has been our workhorse all season, but you don’t expect complete games,” Matherly said. “We were just hoping for six or seven strong innings because in a tournament like this, pitching is at a prime.”
Kohorst gained breathing room in the eighth when the Gators sent nine batters to the plate and took an 8-3 lead. They chased two Reno pitchers in the inning capped by Bobby Shiroky’s three-run homer and Cameron Harper’s solo blast.
Matherly also credited his defense, which committed no errors while making several tough plays.
“It’s so important not to give teams extra chances,” he said. “You’ve got to make the outs you’re supposed to make.”
The loss dropped the Knights into the losers’ bracket, where they will play Rancho at 5 p.m. on Tuesday.
Today’s action will feature a 5 p.m. losers’ bracket game between Sierra Vista and Durango, and an 8 p.m. winner’s bracket game between Bishop Gorman and Coronado.
n Las Vegas 6, Rancho 3 – Ronnie Scott went 2-for-5 with a triple and three RBIs to help the Wildcats upset the Rams.
Las Vegas led all the way, scoring three runs in the first inning and adding three more in the sixth to go ahead 6-0. Starting pitcher Erick Fedde, meanwhile, made the most of the lead by allowing just seven hits over nine innings while striking out six.
Zak Qualls went 3-for-4 with a solo home run to lead Rancho.In-depth high school sports coverage