Scott Hirschi admitted it: He was checking to see if he would come up to the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning of the District 4 championship game last week at Mountain Ridge Park in Las Vegas.
Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride has nothing on the journey it took the P-Town Little League Junior All-Stars to get to that point, but none of the craziness they went through mattered as they trudged off the field after watching Summerlin North put on a two-out, two-run rally to tie the game.
All that mattered was the game was tied, and a rare accomplishment for Pahrump teams was within their grasp. And Hirschi knew the batting order might give him a chance to do something about it.
“I was looking at it,” Hirschi said after practice Friday at Ian Deutch Memorial Park. “I wanted to hit, but I didn’t want to be the guy to strike out and let everybody down.
“When I came up with the bases loaded and two outs, I was kind of stressed out. I was hitting lefty the whole game, so I went righty and fouled a couple off. I was kind of nervous because I had two strikes, but I saw my pitch, and I saw it coming down the middle.”
And he sent it back the same way, delivering an RBI single to send the P-Town Juniors to this week’s state tournament at Governor’s Field in Carson City. Pahrump’s entry is one of four teams left standing with an opportunity to advance to regional play in San Jose, California. And if any of the players need to be reminded what to do and what not to do to win, the Summerlin North game provides all of the lessons.
P-Town started off poorly, especially in the field, then got some good innings on the mound from Jay Amaya. But they weren’t hitting, continuing a troubling trend of striking out that left manager Drew Middleton frustrated.
“That’s going to be my main message when we start getting into hitting the next couple of days (at practice),” Middleton said. “Don’t try to do too much. Go where the pitch is pitched. Don’t try to swing out of your shoes. Play within yourself.”
The go-ahead rally in the fifth inning and getting the winning run in the seventh in the district final were reminders of the good things that can happen with the right approach at the plate. And Pahrump’s players were smart enough to get the point.
“It took one inning, and then we started getting into it,” Leo Finkler said. “We just started getting hyped. That’s all it was. We were all making good contact, getting the ball in play, letting them make the mistakes.”
“Everyone started getting loud, everyone started to communicate better,” added leadoff batter Zack Cuellar, who reached base in eight of 10 plate appearances in the final two games at districts. “Everyone stopped striking out, everyone stopped making errors. We all came together as a team.”
First baseman Louis Sposato said that once they started driving the ball, the momentum began to feed off of itself.
“I decided I just had to make good contact and put the ball in play,” he said. “I followed his curve ball and hit it out to right-center field.”
Sposato’s double was the third consecutive ball driven into the outfield, and Cuellar would cap a five-run rally with another double that scored Talan Brown.
Then, during the winning rally, the only hit other than Hirschi’s game-winner came from Finkler, who to that point had a nightmarish week at the plate.
“I didn’t get a hit the whole tournament,” he said. “I think I had like seven strikeouts. When I went up to the plate I was thinking, I don’t have to do much to get the ball in play. In Connie Mack, I was hitting well, then we get to All-Stars, and I just couldn’t hit.”
But in the seventh, he did, putting two on with none out and leaving P-Town a walk to James Metscher away from loading the bases for Hirschi.
But even as parents’ hearts were still recovering, Middleton was telling his team the work wasn’t over. Four teams will compete in another double-elimination bracket for the state title, and Pahrump’s first foe will be a familiar one: Boulder City.
“We actually know a lot about Boulder,” Middleton said. “We’ve seen them a lot. They’re good, don’t get me wrong. Are they beatable? Absolutely. Basically, my main message is Boulder is our main rival. They don’t like us, we don’t like them, and that’s the way it’s gotta be. So we’ve got to come out here and we’ve got to compete.”
At the high school level, Boulder City owned a 9-0-1 record against Pahrump Valley during coach Brian Hayes’ six-year tenure with the Trojans going into the Class 3A state tournament, but the Trojans turned the tables at the best possible time, scoring a 9-5 victory in Reno to eliminate the Eagles from the state tournament.
P-Town’s Junior All-Stars see no reason that can’t happen again.
“Boulder is going to be the team to beat in the tournament,” Middleton said. “They won state last year and went to regionals. Boulder is a team that’s not going to make a lot of mistakes, so we can’t either. Our pitching will be there. As long as we make plays and put the baseball in play, I like our chances.
“Do I think we’ll compete in this tournament? Yes. Do I think we have the talent to win it all? Absolutely. If we come out and stay focused, we’ll be in good shape.”
“I definitely believe it’s going to be a good couple of games against Boulder City,” Cuellar said. “I really believe it’s going to be us and Boulder City as the last ones up, and it’s going to be a good game.”
“I think that we can get up there and destroy some teams,” Hirschi said before cracking a sly smile. “Maybe.”
Contact Sports Editor Tom Rysinski at firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter:@pvtimes