Dayton teams set for title run |

Dayton teams set for title run

Darrell Moody

DAYTON – Fresh off a series win over Lowry, the Dayton Dust Devils face Virgin Valley in the opening round of the 3A state baseball tournament at 1 p.m. today at Wooster High.

Dayton enters the game with a 15-13 record, while Virgin Valley is 22-9 overall, including an 8-0 league record.

Jay Merrell, Dayton’s head coach, admitted he doesn’t know much about his first-round opponent.

“They have a couple of sophomores that were on the team two years ago when we played them,” Merrell said. “Looking at their stats, it looks like they hit the ball real well, and it looks like they have a pretty good pitching staff.”

Victor Ruvalcaba leads Virgin Valley with a .474 average and a .680 slugging percentage. He has two homers and leads the team with 21 RBIs, according to stats on

Ruvalcaba is one of six starters who are hitting .300 or above. Tanner Tichenor is hitting .430, Zach Horlacker .392, Brandt Eaton .379 (23 RBIs), Jason Witwer .368 and Daniel Gleave .315.

Witwer is the team’s ace with a 6-0 record and 1.44 ERA. Opponents are hitting just .180 against him. Tichenor is 2-0 with a 1.37 ERA. Matt Devore is 3-1 with a 3.88 ERA and Gleave is 3-1 and a 4.30 ERA.

Merrell said he likes the way his team is playing ball right now.

“Right now we’re playing well,” Merrell said. “The defense is playing as good as it has played all year.”

Merrell will go with the same rotation – Conner Oliver (6-5, 2.73), Houston Berntson (3-1, 3.50) and Tim Ply (1-2, 3.75) – that started against Lowry.

“We’ll go with the group that got us here,” Merrell said. “They (Lowry) were hitting Conner early. Once I had the catcher calling the pitches, Conner did better. They may have been picking up my signals.”

Merrell said Oliver pitched better than the score indicated (8-7 loss). Berntson and Ply allowed only one run apiece and three hits combined in the Dust Devils’ wins at Lowry.

Dayton enters the game with a team average of .323. Oliver leads the way at .453, Timmy Doyle is at .398, Logan Garling is at .364, Forrest Burrows is at .351, Logan Jones is at .319 and Sam Hadley is at .300. Doyle leads the team in RBIs and homers with 27 and 5, respectively.


Dayton will face Boulder City in the opening round of the state playoffs at noon Friday at Bishop Manogue.

“The girls are really excited,” said coach Daven Passalacqua. “I think we really have a good chance to win it.”

Dayton reached the playoffs after taking two of three against Fernley (2-1, 0-1 and 2-0), allowing just one run in three games thanks to the sterling pitching of ace right-hander Mackenzie Cole, who is 14-4.

“I think that game (1-0 against Fernley) was the best she threw all year even though we lost,” Passalacqua said.

Other than Cole (.472), Natasha Wells (.380) and Cheyanna Burrows (.311), hits have been tough to come by for Dayton. Mariah Collins is fourth-best on the team at .279. According to, no other starters are hitting over .200.

“We’re not hitting like we should be,” Passalacqua said. “We’re not tracking the ball like we should be. We need to be tracking all the way to the catcher’s glove.”