FERNLEY - Some bad memories from last year's 3A Division I tournament came back to haunt the Fernley High School baseball team on Friday. Still, the Vaqueros found a way to solve those concerns, as they staged fifth inning rallies to defeat Battle Mountain and Rite of Passage to advance into the tournament's championship round.
Matt Lambeth singled Bryan Reeder home with the go-ahead run in the fifth to put Fernley on track to a 6-1 opening round win against Battle Mountain. And the Vaqueros made it a perfect day when they erupted to score eight runs in the fifth inning, rallying for an 11-3 triumph against Rite of Passage.
Fernley (27-7) now only needs one more win - against either Rite of Passage or Battle Mountain - to become the first regular season champion to win the Division I tournament since it started 1997. All three teams are assured of berths in the NIAA/U.S. Bank 3A State Tournament next weekend in Mesquite.
The Vaqueros came into last year's Division I tournament with a 25-6 record, only to receive an early dismissal with back-to-back losses.
"We went home after the first day last year; we definitely did not want that to happen again," Fernley coach James Huckaby said. "We wanted to make sure we qualified for state."
With the score tied 1-1 in the fifth, Reeder singled, moved to second on Tyler Selden's sacrifice bunt and then Lambeth delivered a two-out single to score the go-ahead run.
That was ample support for Levi Diaz, who pitched a one-hitter to go with 13 strikeouts and three walks to earn the win. The only run he gave up was on Sergio Fernandez' homer, which tied the score in the top of the fifth.
"Levi threw an incredible game. He was 0-1 at the beginning of the year - he was inconsistent, he was all over the place - but he spent a lot of time working on his mechanics, and now he's found his niche," Huckaby said of Diaz, a junior left-hander who is now 7-1 on the season.
Rite of Passage led 3-1 going into the bottom of the fifth before Fernley came back with its eight-run rally. Dave Tustin singled and Aaron Keller was hit by a pitch, then Reeder doubled both home to tie the score. Selden followed with another double to put Fernley on top, and Lambeth followed with a two-run homer.
Lambeth pitched a complete game four-hitter to earn the win. The sophomore had 12 strikeouts and three walks.
Rite of Passage had advanced into the winners' bracket with a 10-4 opening round win over Spring Creek behind the pitching of DaJuan Kennedy, who allowed five hits, struck out 13 and walked three.
Battle Mountain plays Rite of Passage this morning at 9 a.m., with the winner moving on to play Fernley in the finals of the double elimination tournament.