MESQUITE - Aided by some big plays on the base paths and on defense, Fernley High School stole a monumental 4-0 victory against Whittell in the opening round of the NIAA/U.S. Bank 3A State Baseball Tournament on Thursday at City Park.
Fernley manufactured four runs, thanks in part to nine stolen bases in 10 attempts, and the defense turned two key ground ball double plays as the Vaqueros posted their first state tournament win under coach James Huckaby.
"This was a big monkey off our back," Huckaby said. "We've been to state a few times in my nine years here, but this is the first time we've won."
The game showcased two of the area's better pitchers: Levi Diaz of Fernley and Brandon Lee of Whittell. Diaz pitched a four-hitter and walked three to earn the shutout victory, while Lee scattered nine singles and struck out 10 in a losing cause.
"The Whittell kid threw a great game; we were lucky to win," Huckaby said. "He kept us off balance; he worked really fast and he changed speed on us really well."
Fernley left nine runners stranded on the bases, eight in scoring position. Lee rang up a strikeout to end the second inning with a runner on third base, and he had back-to-back strikeouts to end the fourth and fifth innings with runners on third.
Diaz was pretty effective himself, and when Whittell mounted threats in the first and sixth innings, Fernley's defense rose to the challenge. Shortstop Tyler Selden turned a 6-3 double play to end the first, then he combined with Garrett Hall and Ryan Ferris for a 6-4-3 to end the sixth.
Fernley took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Garrett Hall reached on an error, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Diaz and scored when Ferris slapped a single through the right side.
Two more runs were manufactured in the third. Selden reached on a fielder's choice and Josh Tippit was hit by a pitch. After a double steal, both scored on Matt Lambeth's single through the right side.
Fernley scored its final run in the sixth when Lambeth singled, stole second and third, and came home on an overthrow at third.
Al Polito, Bryan Reeder and Lambeth collected two hits each for Fernley. Joe Piccola hit 2-for-3, including a double to lead off the game.
Fernley plays Division III champion and last year's state runner-up Moapa Valley today at 10 a.m. at Virgin Valley High School.