Errors plague Dayton, Oliver in state opener
RENO – If Conner Oliver sued for non-support he would win sans argument.
Oliver, the ace of the Dayton High pitching staff, gave up eight runs, all unearned, as Dayton dropped its 3A state opener 8-4 to Virgin Valley on Thursday afternoon at Wooster High School.
Dayton returns to action at 10 a.m. today in an elimination game against Spring Creek. Houston Berntson gets the start for Dayton.
“It was a step back from what we did last week,” Dayton coach Jay Merrell said. “Maybe it was jitters; maybe they were a little nervous. A lot of the guys have been in the state tournament though.
“I thought Conner threw well. We had the big error at first with two outs. We came back and scored a couple later. We dropped the first one to Lowry and came back. We’re taking the hard way through it that’s for sure.”
Dayton came out swinging it well, as Tim Doyle doubled into the left-centerield gap, moved to third on a single by Oliver and scored on a sacrifice fly to right by Berntson. Virgin Valley’s Zach Horlacher fanned Jake Koch to end the threat.
The Dust Devils were held hitless and scoreless over the next three innings, as Horlacher recorded five of his eight strikeouts in that span.
Virgin Valley tied the game at 1 in the bottom of the first when Brandt Eaton walked, advanced to second on a passed ball and scored on Victor Ruvalcaba’s single to right-centerfield. Tanner Tichenor reached on an error by Kyle Farnworth to put runners at second and third, but Oliver fanned Daniel Gleave to get out of the inning.
The game remained tied until the fourth when the opportunistic Bulldogs scored five times on just two hits to go ahead 6-1.
Oliver got two quick outs, but then walked Austin Gazlay, who advanced to third on Cameron Jensen’s single. Jensen went to second on the throw into third base. Jason Wittwer followed with a groundball to first that Koch misplayed, allowing both runners to score. A walk, a hit batsman, a run-scoring single by Tichenor and an error by shortstop Logan Garling enabled three more runs to score before Oliver was able to escape the inning.
Dayton scored twice in the top of the fifth to slice the deficit to 6-3, both runs coming when Tichenor dropped Koch’s two-out flyball to right field. The error scored Doyle and Oliver who both walked.
Virgin Valley stretched the lead to 8-3 when two errors by Farnworth led to two more unearned runs. Dayton got one back in the seventh when Oliver singled and eventually scored on a wild pitch.
“That (capitalizing on errors) is a part of the game,” said Boyd Wittwer, Virgin Valley head coach. “We made a couple of errors (that hurt us). Good teams take advantage (of mistakes).”
The elder Wittwer praised the pitching of Horlacher, who went the distance.
“He threw great,” Wittwer said. “He’s had a little bit of a sore shoulder this year, and because of that we’ve limited his innings. He only threw times all year. I was only expecting him to go three or four innings, but he said he felt good.”
Dayton managed just four hits, two by Oliver and one each by Doyle and Farnworth.