Saturday, May 21, 2011 | 5 p.m.
If you would have told Bishop Gorman High junior pitcher Evan Dunn two years ago that he’d be starting in the state championship game, the right-hander probably would have thought you were joking.
After playing on the ‘JV 2’ team — a taxi squad for players who didn’t make the junior varsity team — as a freshman and missing his sophomore year last season with a severe back injury, Dunn was an unlikely star of the title game.
He pitched a four-hit complete game shutout Saturday with six strikeouts, and the Gaels erupted for six runs in the first inning against Green Valley High to capture their sixth straight championship with a 10-0 five-inning victory at the College of Southern Nevada.
After batting around in the first to take a commanding 6-0 lead, Dunn made sure the Gators didn’t mount a comeback. He struck out the side in the second inning and only surrendered two hits the rest of the game.
“Not only is he pitching in the state championship, but we have a lot of confidence in him on the mound,” Gorman coach Nick Day said. “For him to throw the way he did and to get a shutout — that is the best hitting club in town, maybe next to us — against a good hitting team like that is really icing on the cake for his season.”
The 6-foot-3 Dunn has grown roughly 6 inches since his freshman year, which partially caused the back problems. It also helped him develop into a dominating pitcher, with the frame a factor in adding significant velocity to his pitches.
“I guess I am really fortunate,” Dunn said. “You just have to keep going at it. The support of your teammates helps a lot, too.”
Gorman’s initial seven batters reached base in the first inning and sophomore Kenny Meimerstorf belted a three-run double to give Gorman the lead for good. A.J. Van Meetren and Cody Roper had run-scoring singles in the outburst, while catcher Erik Van Meetren plated a run by getting hit by a pitch.
Gorman closed the season with 21 straight wins to tie Green Valley’s record for consecutive large-school state titles at six.
This year, however, was no ordinary season. In Day’s first year after taking over for Chris Sheff, it took the Gaels a few games to get accumulated. Additionally, the Las Vegas area had three teams nationally ranked for most of the year — Gorman, Rancho and Sierra Vista.
“With the new coaching staff it was easy to point the fingers at the coaches and say these guys don’t know what they are doing,” said Day, who previously spent two years as a Gorman assistant. “There was bickering in the dugout with guys blaming each other and guys not trusting each other.”
Gorman added one run in each of the final four innings, capped by a game-ending single to left field by senior standout Joey Gallo to clinch the championship by the mercy rule. The rule stops the game after five innings if one team is ahead by 10 or more runs.
T.J. White, Roper and Erik Van Meetren added run-scoring singles.
Green Valley threatened in the fourth, but Dunn got Zack Vergiels to hit into an inning-ending double play. White started the double play at third base by grabbing a difficult ground ball.
Green Valley, which had been playing from behind for most of the past two weeks, simply ran out of gas. It lost to Gorman 9-7 Thursday in the tournament’s first game, having to win two games in the loser’s bracket to reach the finals. They would have had to beat Gorman twice.
“We just ran out of steam,” Green Valley coach Matt Stoner said. “They are a really good team. They put the pressure on us right off the bat.”
Green Valley overcame a five-run deficit last week against Sierra Vista in the state play-in to advance to the tournament. It was also in the loser’s bracket in the Sunrise Regional event.
Day, a 1996 Green Valley graduate who won four state titles with the Gators, said he had mixed emotions facing his alma mater.
“Nobody expected them to do much,” Day said. “They way they came together and the way they played, as a former Green Valley baseball player, I was really proud of them. I told (the opposing coaches) after the game that I’m not just proud of them for making the state championship, but the way they played the game and the way they conducted themselves. Any former Green Valley player would be proud of that.”
Next year, Gorman could surpass Green Valley’s title streak. It’s a tradition that isn’t lost on the players.
“It’s just so fun being out here and winning,” said Meimerstorf, a sophomore and one of Gorman’s top underclassmen. “It was a tough year at times. We did lose some games at the beginning. But we just kept winning and kept winning, and had some confidence by the end of the season.”