Baseball coaches are generally happy after victories, but Las Vegas coach Gino DiMaria opened his postgame speech with a scowl on his face Wednesday.
The Wildcats had just extended their season, but it wasn’t the type of win DiMaria had envisioned.
Even so, fourth-seeded Las Vegas outlasted No. 5 Liberty 18-14 in the losers’ bracket of the American Legion state tournament at UNLV’s Wilson Stadium.
“We knew heading into the season that our pitching was going to be a question,” said DiMaria, whose team will play Bishop Gorman in the semifinals at 8 p.m. today. “I wasn’t happy with our pitching tonight.”
DiMaria’s staff surrendered 16 hits while issuing four walks, but his offense made it somewhat more palatable with an impressive performance. Justin Cheney led the Wildcats’ 21-hit attack, going 4-for-6 with a triple, two doubles and three RBIs.
“I felt good at the plate tonight,” Cheney said. “I’ve been seeing the ball well, and I was fortunate to get my hits when we needed them.”
Though the Wildcats maintained the lead throughout most of the game, they had to withstand multiple rallies by the Patriots.
“It’s good to know we can hit,” said DiMaria, whose squad scored at least one run in every inning but the seventh. “These guys don’t quit. A lot of teams at a certain point would have said, ‘Enough is enough.’ ”
The Wildcats appeared to be on the ropes when Marcos Rivera highlighted a three-run inning with an RBI triple to help Liberty take a 13-11 lead.
But Las Vegas answered in the bottom of the inning to go ahead 15-13, scoring four runs with the help of Quinnton Mack’s two-run single. The Wildcats led the rest of the way.
Las Vegas bullpen ace Jesse Acosta shut down the Patriots from there, allowing one run on two hits in the final two innings.
“This team is like a family,” DiMaria said. “It’s hard to stay mad at these guys.”
Mack went 3-for-6 with five RBIs for Las Vegas (22-15), and Xavier Palmer went 3-for-4 with three RBIs.
Rivera went 4-for-4 with a triple, two doubles and three RBIs to lead Liberty (22-11).
■ Reno 6, Rancho 4 — The sixth-seeded Knights jumped ahead early and hung on to upset the No. 2 Rams in an elimination game.
Reno (41-13) wasted no time in establishing the tempo, grabbing a 2-0 lead on a two-run homer by Anthony Hascheff in the first inning.
Trevor McElroy helped the Knights extend their advantage to 6-0 by capping a four-run fourth inning with a two-run double.
But the Rams (33-10-1) scored two in the fourth inning and cut their deficit to 6-4 with a two-run homer by Zak Qualls in the seventh.
Reno reliever Matthew Erny worked out of an eighth-inning jam, however, and went on to earn his third save of the season.