CARSON CITY — Coach Boyd Wittwer never lost faith in his Virgin Valley baseball team this season.
“Our coaching staff spent quite a bit of time convincing this team that they would win a championship this year,” Wittwer said. “Even though we only had four seniors, we knew we had the ability to get it done.”
That ability was on display at the Class 3A state tournament, and Virgin Valley capped its season with a 7-1 victory over Spring Creek in the title game Saturday at Western Nevada College. The state title was the first for the Bulldogs (29-12) since 1998.
“After four league games we were 1-3,” Wittwer said. “But that’s when we turned it around. We went out and swept Moapa in a doubleheader, and after that we got on a roll and just kept on rolling.”
Virgin Valley went 3-0 at state, outscoring its opponents 26-3 and hitting .371 (33-for-89).
“When we came out here today, I could just see the eagerness in their eyes to get the job done,” Wittwer said.
Wittwer also could see it in the right arm of sophomore pitcher Zach Horlacher, who went the distance, striking out 11 and walking none.
“He is just tough as nails,” Wittwer said. “He just goes out there and battles on every pitch.”
Horlacher saved his best for last, striking out the side in the seventh inning. He fanned at least one hitter in every inning, and six of the last seven outs came on strikeouts.
“The fadeaway curveball was really working,” Horlacher said. “They just seemed to go for that a lot, so we kept throwing it.”
Horlacher’s only struggles came in the fifth, when he allowed three hits and a run. But he struck out Zack Smith to end the inning with runners on second and third and was never in trouble again.
“We talked about taking him out in the sixth and seventh innings if he got into any trouble,” Wittwer said. “We had a couple guys warming up in the seventh just in case we needed them. But he seemed to get stronger, and his last inning was his best.”
The Bulldogs, who defeated Spring Creek 16-0 on Friday, scored all their runs Saturday in the second with two outs. Six of their seven hits came in the inning.
Terran Leavitt’s run-scoring double gave Virgin Valley a 1-0 lead, and Smith’s two-run error led to six unearned runs.
Jason Wittwer also doubled in a run, and Travis Leavitt and Brent Horlacher had RBI singles. Brady Eaton walked with the bases loaded to force in a run against Spartans starter Brett Pickett.
“We just had that one big inning,” Boyd Wittwer said. “We didn’t get many hits in the game other than in that inning, but we found some holes at the right time and took advantage of their mistake.”