Last year, the Pahrump Valley High School baseball team saw what happens when a team runs out of pitching in the postseason.
The Trojans sent Virgin Valley to the losers bracket with a 6-5 second-round win. Because of that one-run margin, the Bulldogs found themselves needing to win a Friday afternoon game for the right to play in the losers bracket final that same night. The Trojans, who lost to Boulder City in the winners bracket final, were waiting for them.
Virgin Valley was sailing along, leading 7-0 through four innings, when the bottom fell out. More accurately, the pitching ran out. Playing an extra game over a four-day period proved too much for the Bulldogs’ pitching staff, and the Trojans took advantage, scoring 6 runs in the fifth and 3 runs in the sixth for a 9-7 win that locked up a spot in the Class 3A State Tournament.
And while the Sunset League champions don’t expect to find themselves in the losers bracket again, Pahrump Valley went into last year’s region tournament as the No. 1 seed out of the Sunset as well. Bottom line: In a double-elimination tournament, you need the arms. The Trojans (23-8) believe they have them, and their team earned run average of 2.13 suggests they do. “I think we can use some more (arms), but if all of our pitchers are throwing the way they have been recently, we’ll have plenty,” said sophomore pitcher Jake Riding (6-0, 0.58 ERA), who shares the team lead in wins with junior Cyle Havel.
“I feel like I’ve been pitching pretty well lately, and I’m able to pitch so well because of my defense,” added Havel, who leads the Trojans in innings pitched (37 1/3) and strikeouts (40). “I know I can trust them behind me.”
Coach Brian Hayes expects to use Havel, Riding and sophomore Jalen Denton as starters in the region tournament, which opened Tuesday with the Trojans taking on Virgin Valley (12-16), the No. 4 seed out of the Sunrise League and a team the Trojans edged 5-4 on March 20 in Pahrump. “I think I’m doing pretty well,” Denton said of his late-season pitching. “I need to locate a little better because I’ve been having trouble lately.”
Denton started 6 games before he finally got a win, but more recently he won back-to-back starts against Rancho Mirage, California, and Del Sol. And he’s had to work for his success, facing more batters (170) than any of his teammates. If need be, the Trojans feel comfortable sending out freshman Zach Cuellar and Roman Roberts or sophomore Ryan Braithwaite. Senior Joey Koenig has been vital in relief, compiling a 1.07 ERA with 3 saves.
“We’ve sprinkled in some experience with some other guys,” Hayes said after the Trojans closed the regular season with a 13-2 home win over Western. “Roman can give us some decent innings, we’ve got Ryan Braithwaite, who we kept down on JV to throw today and give him innings. We’ve got nine or 10 guys we can bring in. “In the playoffs, we can have a quick hook. Early in the season, we give these guys a little bit of a leash, but we get in the playoffs we’ll go right to somebody else right away.”
The development of the young pitching provided a nice boost and meant Hayes could throw the original plan out the window.
“The only thing that we haven’t really had was that guy who has thrown on a Monday and then bring him back in relief,” Hayes said.
“That was our plan but we had so many of our younger guys step up that we haven’t really needed to do that. And Joey’s kind of been our guy that if we get into trouble, he comes in and more often than not put the fire out…”
And with the offense picking up as the season went along — as a team, the Trojans are hitting .386, slugging at .533 and have a .495 on-base percentage — the Trojans are a confident group heading into the postseason tournament.
“I think our hitting came around at the right time, and I’m expecting great things from everybody,” Havel said.
“We’ve always had the defense part, but the hitting part is coming back, and I think we’re going to destroy it,” Denton said.
“These kids have some confidence right now,” Hayes said.
Pahrump will play Mojave or Boulder City in their second region tournament game at 3:30 p.m. today in Pahrump. The winners bracket final is at 3:30 p.m. Thursday. The losers bracket semifinals and final will be Friday in Pahrump. The championship game will be at noon Saturday, also in Pahrump, with the second game, if needed, to follow.