Wildcats to take step up in competition for Sunrise Regional tourney

Las Vegas High’s baseball team couldn’t have been much more successful in making its undefeated run through the Northeast Division.

The Wildcats outscored league opponents 142-25 in posting a 12-0 mark, but coach Sam Thomas isn’t sure that was the best way to prepare for the Sunrise Regional tournament.

While the Wildcats were pummeling their competition in a league that featured just one other team with a winning overall record, the teams in the Southeast Division were battling for playoff spots until the final day of the season.

“They don’t understand the level of competition they’re facing (in the playoffs),” Thomas said of his team, which had just one league game decided by fewer than four runs. “They don’t have to raise their game up, raise their concentration level up (during the regular season). Then we’re going to play a No. 4 seed that has played with that level of concentration all year, so I definitely think they have the advantage.”

Thomas’ Wildcats (25-7) play at Basic (16-10) at 6 p.m. today in the opening round. In other first-round games, Chaparral (12-14) plays Green Valley (21-10) at 3 p.m. at Basic, Coronado (21-8) plays Rancho (20-11) at Eldorado at 3 p.m., and Silverado (20-11) plays at Eldorado (10-22) at 6 p.m.

Thomas hopes his team is up to the challenge of facing traditional Sunrise powers Silverado and Green Valley, but he said he’s not sure.

“I think you might see the same characters,” Thomas said. “I hope we can change the list of characters at the end, but I don’t see where anybody has the right to say that Silverado is different until it’s proven, because they still carry that aura with them, and so does Green Valley.”

Both of those teams were playing some of their best baseball at the end of the regular season. Southeast champion and defending Sunrise champ Silverado won seven of its last eight games, and the Gators won 10 of their last 11.

The Sunset Regional also begins today, and defending state champion Bishop Gorman has to be considered one of the favorites.

But the Gaels didn’t even finish first in the Southwest Division, losing a pair of extra-inning games in the final two weeks to a Bonanza team that missed the playoffs.

“It just shows how difficult our league is,” Gorman coach Chris Sheff said. “If you make the playoffs out of our league, you’re pretty well prepared for the playoffs.”

The Gaels (28-6-1) play Palo Verde (14-15) at 3 p.m. today at Centennial. In other first-round games, Southwest Division champ Sierra Vista (24-6) plays at Centennial (17-14) at 6 p.m., Arbor View (19-9) plays at Durango (22-11) at 3 p.m., and Northwest champion Cimarron-Memorial (20-9) plays Spring Valley (17-14) at 6 p.m. at Durango.

Gorman has a deeper pitching staff than most high school teams. Instead of relying on two or three pitchers throughout the season, the Gaels have seven pitchers who have thrown 17 or more innings.

“Maybe it hurts us sometimes in league, but it really grooms us well for our state tournament,” Sheff said. “If we get deep in the tournament, we feel like we’ve still got arms to throw at you.”

Sierra Vista coach Nate Selby said the little things are magnified in the postseason.

“When you get to the end, it comes down to can you get a hit with guys on second and third with two outs, because if you do, you’re probably going to win,” Selby said. “You work hard to get here, and you hope that you play well at the right time.”

Both regional tournaments continue through Friday, with the winners advancing to next week’s Class 4A state tournament at the Community College of Southern Nevada.

The second-place finishers in each regional will play each other at 11 a.m. Saturday at Durango for the final berth at state.

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