Knowing his pitching staff was depleted from a week of heavy work, Sierra Vista baseball coach Levi Gill asked his offense to step things up a notch Saturday.
The fourth-seeded Lions responded convincingly, rallying to claim the American Legion state championship with a 12-inning, 11-10 victory over No. 7 Las Vegas at Wilson Stadium.
Blair Goldsack lined a two-out single, his only hit of the night, to right field to score the winning run.
“This is the first time we’ve been able to celebrate on this field,” said Gill, whose squad earned its first Legion state championship. “It’s definitely a good feeling. Now we go on to out next goal, which is to win the regional tournament.”
The championship broke a string of four consecutive titles held by Bishop Gorman, which was eliminated Friday by Sierra Vista.
The Lions earned a berth into next week’s regional tournament, which will begin Thursday at Wilson Stadium. Gorman also earned a spot by virtue of its regular-season championship.
Sierra Vista jumped ahead 1-0 in the first inning when Matt Holman followed Billy Santiwan’s one-out double with a triple off the base of the right-field fence.
The Wildcats answered with a run in the second, but Sierra Vista reclaimed the lead with three runs on five hits in the bottom of the inning to go up 4-1.
Sierra Vista starter Dusty Stevens took the mound with a 5-1 lead heading into the fourth, but Las Vegas evened the score at 5 with four runs in the inning. Quinnton Mack delivered the big blow, a 375-foot, two-run homer to left-center.
“We just wanted our pitchers to eat innings,” Gill said. “It would have been nice not to give up so many runs, but they were all competing.”
The Lions rallied in the fourth, taking a 9-5 lead on RBI doubles by Scott Tomassetti, Connor Klein and Julian Cutolo.
The Wildcats battled back again, scoring four runs in the sixth inning to take their only lead. Ronnie Scott hit a two-run single, and Sierra Vista issued two bases-loaded walks to give Las Vegas a 10-9 advantage.
Cutolo’s RBI single tied the score in the bottom of the inning, and the game stayed tied at 10 for the next five innings.
The Wildcats had an opportunity in the ninth, when Xavier Palmer and Brig Jensen singled to put runners at the corners with one out. But Goldsack struck out the next two batters to escape the jam.
Goldsack, making his third appearance on the mound in as many nights, held Las Vegas down from there, striking out the side in the 10th and putting the Wildcats down in order in the 11th and 12th. He finished with eight strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings of work.
“Talk about a day,” Gill said. “That’s clutch. You couldn’t ask anything more than what he’s giving us.”
Erick Fedde, who tossed nine innings Friday to help the Wildcats beat Green Valley, squelched a chance for Sierra Vista in the 10th, striking out Goldsack for the final out with two runners on.
But the Lions put their first two runners on in the 12th, taking advantage of two errors by the Wildcats. That set up Goldsack’s dramatic game-winning hit.
Cutolo went 5-for-5 with a double and four RBIs to lead Sierra Vista.