The odds were stacked against the Southern Nevada Bulls on Saturday, but coach Chris Martinez had a plan.
His offense was struggling, and his players were exhausted from working through the losers’ bracket. But Martinez knew he had plenty of pitching for the championship round of the inaugural Southern Nevada Connie Mack state tournament.
The coach’s confidence proved justified, as the Bulls of Arbor View High School defeated Snow Canyon (Utah) 5-2 at the College of Southern Nevada to claim the title.
Gabe Gonzalez went 2-for-3 with a home run, two RBIs and a walk to lead the Bulls, who earned a berth in the regional tournament, which will begin Wednesday in Seattle.
“It’s always tough when you lose one of your first games in a tournament,” said Martinez, whose squad fell into the losers’ bracket with a second-round loss to Bonanza on Wednesday. “But we’ve really tried to develop our pitching staff so if we did get into any tough situations everybody would be ready to go.”
The Bulls got into a tough situation Saturday. Under the tourney’s double-elimination format, they started the day knowing they would need two wins over the Warriors to earn the championship.
But the burden was eased when their bats suddenly awakened, and timely hitting gave them an early lead in the title game. Nick Quintana singled in the first inning and advanced to second base on a balk by Snow Canyon starter Bryan Phelps. Gonzalez followed with an RBI single to left field to give Arbor View a 1-0 lead.
Jeff Griffith stretched Arbor View’s lead to 2-0 with a run-scoring single in the fourth.
“Our sticks woke up a little,” Martinez said. “We struggled most of the summer with the bats, but everyone from No. 1 through 9 came through today.”
Arbor View right-hander Quinn Gallagher perplexed Warriors hitters throughout the first four innings, but the starter’s innings-pitched eligibility expired, and Snow Canyon battled back in the sixth with two runs off reliever Ben Cutting, who pitched seven innings on Friday. The Warriors made the most of two hits and a walk to tie the score at 2 with the help of an RBI double by Will Durante.
Martinez said he knew the long week eventually would affect his players.
“That’s where it gets tough,” he said. “We always preach that you should just try to win every inning, and we try to keep them focused.”
An RBI single by Max Jungblut in the sixth capped a two-run sixth for the Bulls, who maintained the lead the rest of the way. Arbor View reliever Sam Patrone, who benefited from an insurance run on a homer by Gonzalez in the seventh, got the final 10 outs to earn the victory.
Martinez said he was particularly proud that his team prevented a Utah squad from winning the Nevada state title.
“There were a lot of fantastic teams in the league this year, and we all talked about that,” he said. “We wanted to keep the championship in the state.”
Earlier Saturday, the Bulls forced the championship game by defeating the Warriors, 13-1. Kevin Johns went 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI to lead Arbor View, and Gonzalez and Braden Nixon combined to toss a seven-inning five-hitter.
Gonzalez was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.