RENO — Liberty’s Jay Martz doesn’t have much big-game pitching experience. In fact, he doesn’t have much pitching experience at all.
But that didn’t stop the senior right-hander from looking the part of the ace Thursday.
Martz fired a two-hitter, and Liberty exploded for eight runs in the sixth inning en route to an 11-2 win over Damonte Ranch in the Division I state baseball tournament at UNR’s Peccole Park.
“Jay’s a competitor, and every time he doesn’t have the ball, he gives me a dirty look,” Liberty coach Nick Didier said. “He’s just a great kid and a pleasure to coach. And I’m glad he’s on my team. He’s done a phenomenal job all year, and he’s not done yet. We’ve got a couple more to go.”
Liberty (29-5) plays Centennial (26-11) at 4:30 p.m. today at Peccole. Damonte Ranch (26-12) plays Reno (33-4) at 2 in an elimination game.
Martz finished with six strikeouts and three walks. His only rough inning came in the third with Liberty leading 3-0.
Martz walked the first two batters, and Grant Goff singled through the left side to make the score 3-1.
Martz retired the next two batters, but then uncorked a wild pitch. The ball caromed off the backstop back to catcher Brandon Soratos, who flipped the ball to Martz at the plate, but Matt Barrett got under the tag to make it 3-2.
Andy Calingaert then hit a sharp liner back at Martz. The ball hit him in the leg and ricocheted directly to second baseman Nick Rush, who fired to first to end the inning and strand a runner in scoring position.
“We preach throw strikes and make the other team earn it,” Didier said. “And after that inning where he had a little bit of trouble, he settled down a little bit and threw a lot of strikes. And we got the (win) because of that: good pitching and playing defense.”
Martz, in his first year pitching in high school, said he’s becoming more and more comfortable with every start. And Thursday, he said he was commanding all of his pitches.
“It was awesome,” Martz said. “It was fun to play in a great ballpark with my team, and I’m glad to win.”
Liberty left a runner on third base in four straight innings as the Patriots struggled to come up with the big hit.
“We didn’t execute like we normally do, but we’re just glad to get a win and still be here,” Martz said.
The Patriots broke through in the sixth, sending 11 batters to the plate and scoring eight runs on eight hits.
Dan Skelly was huge in the inning, providing an RBI triple and a run-scoring double.
“We were getting a little frustrated,” Didier said. “It’s a big stage, but we need to play the same game. The game doesn’t change. Finally we relaxed, got some big clutch hits and we were able to score some runs.”
And Martz thinks the offensive display is just a sign of what the Patriots are capable of.
“We hit the ball hard all year, and we’re going to continue to do it,” he said.
Didier hopes the big sixth inning wakes up the offense for the remainder of the tournament.
“It’s just timely hitting,” he said. “Big, two-out hits are always key. By no means was this an easy game, and the score doesn’t really tell how the game went. So big, two-out hits are going to be key, and hopefully our lineup gets clicking at the right time and we can do some special things.”
Skelly was 3-for-4, and Josh McCollum went 2-for-2 with two runs and two RBIs for Liberty, which saw eight of nine starters get at least one hit. Justin Lutes was 2-for-3 with a triple and two RBIs for the Patriots.
■ Centennial 7, Reno 4 — Pinch hitter Jared Drizin lined a three-run triple into the right-field corner with two outs in the bottom of the sixth to give the Bulldogs a 5-4 lead, and they tacked on two more unearned runs in the inning en route to the win.
Cooper Powell fired a two-hitter, striking out eight and walking four, to get the win. He also hit three batters.
Powell took a no-hitter into the sixth, and the Bulldogs led 2-0.
But Powell walked the leadoff hitter and hit the next batter.
A one-out walk loaded the bases for Reno cleanup hitter Jeremy Peterson, who drove a 2-2 pitch over the wall in left-center field for a grand slam and a 4-2 Reno lead.
Centennial started the fourth inning with back-to-back singles from Kyle Hoton and Jake Portaro. The runners moved up on a swinging bunt by Powell, and Will Loucks lined a two-out, two-run double into the left-field corner to break the scoreless tie.
Reno’s Matthew Young allowed two earned runs on seven hits in 5 2/3 innings. He struck out eight with one walk.
Jordan Dreibelbis and Brandon Davis combined on a five-inning seven-hitter as Faith Lutheran moved one step closer to its goal of a state title, opening the Division I-A state tournament with a 17-6 win over South Tahoe at Sparks High.
The Crusaders (28-6) will meet Churchill County (23-8-1) in the winners’ bracket final at 1 p.m. today at Sparks.
Churchill County held off Chaparral 6-5 in the other opening-round game.
The Cowboys (24-12) will face South Tahoe (18-16) in an elimination game at 10 a.m. today.
Colton Johnson’s RBI single to center with one out in the third inning sparked a four-run rally to lead Lincoln County past Needles 6-2 in an elimination game in the Division III state tournament at Wooster High.
A two-out error later in the inning allowed another run to score, and Paul Boag followed with a two-run single to put the Lynx up 5-2.
McClain O’Connor went 2-for-4 with two doubles, and Mike Wood and Johnson each went 1-for-2 with an RBI for Lincoln County (23-5-1), which bounced back from a 9-1 loss to Battle Mountain earlier in the day and will play either Battle Mountain (17-7) or Yerington (21-11) in an elimination game at 11:30 a.m. today at UNR’s Peccole Park.
Aidan Shaver and William Dunn each went 1-for-4 with an RBI for Needles (16-12-1), a 19-4 loser to Yerington earlier Thursday.
Carlos Robledo fired a two-hitter and struck out 11 to lead Virginia City to a 4-1 win over Indian Springs at Peccole Park.
Troy Heath lined a single to center in the first, and Baylee McCormick had a bloop single down the left-field line in the fifth to account for Indian Springs’ hits.
■ Wells 13, Pahrangat Valley 10 — At Peccole Park, Carlos Aguilar hit an inside-the-park homer to score three runs in the top of the eighth and help the Leopards beat the Panthers.
Wells (24-5-1) plays Virginia City (15-5) at 10 a.m. today at Wooster High. Pahranagat Valley (22-7) plays Indian Springs (14-10) in an elimination game at 1 p.m.