Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Sun
Saturday, May 18, 2013 | 9:30 p.m.
Chandler Blanchard’s immediate reactions after launching home runs in the first and fourth innings of Saturday’s state championship final were identical.
The Coronado senior sprinted in the base paths, cautiously optimistic that the shots to right field and center field, respectively, had enough to get over the fence.
Blanchard took his time after smashing a third long ball in the fifth-inning to left-center field. There was no doubt about that one.
“We call it, ‘light-tower power,’” said Coronado manager David Padilla. “Right off of his bat, I knew it was gone.”
The sound of Blanchard’s metal bat colliding with the leather-bound ball at College of Southern Nevada’s William R. Morse Stadium served as the requiem to Bishop Gorman’s historic run of seven straight state championships.
Blanchard’s third home run, a two-run shot in as many at-bats, ended up as the game-winning play for the Cougars. Coronado defeated Bishop Gorman 7-4 in the deciding match after an 11-7 victory earlier in the day to force a second game in the double-elimination state tournament.
Blanchard’s bat wasn’t his only instrument of destruction; his arm was the other. Blanchard pitched a complete game, giving up only three earned runs in seven innings to the high-octane Gorman offense while striking out four and walking none.
“I’m on top of the world right now,” Blanchard said as he clutched the state championship trophy. “I’m so excited. My voice is gone. I don’t even know, it doesn’t even feel like reality right now.”
Coronado notched the first baseball state championship in school history. It was a goal the Cougars set ever since losing in embarrassing 11-1 fashion to the Gaels in last year’s title game.
“They’re a really good team and they have seven years,” Blanchard said. “But it was our turn. We showed how we play baseball.”
Gorman hit Blanchard hard in the first round of the tournament Thursday en route to a 9-7 victory. It was after that game that the leader told Padilla he wanted “redemption” and to pitch in the finals if the Cougars advanced.
Padilla agreed, knowing Blanchard had been “our go-to guy all year”, but for the second game. He went with Jackson Cofer, a junior on a roster of 17 seniors, on the mound in the ever-important first game.
“They play with a lot of emotion just like we do and the one that had the more emotion was probably going to be the one who won the first game,” Padilla said. “Their backs weren’t against the wall. And ours were.”
Cofer gave up three runs in just more than one inning of work, but Coronado’s offense had already built a major lead with a nine-run second inning.
Senior second baseman Tyler Brown was a double away from the cycle at the end of the second inning. He led off the game with the triple, getting driven in by right fielder Miles Brice, before hitting a two-run home run in the second.
Brice added two more RBIs with a triple of his own in the second before Gorman starter Neiko Martinez walked the next two batters. That set up senior shortstop Cain Brady to drive in two RBI with a double to deep center field.
The order came back to Brown at the top, who knocked in his third RBI of four on the day. Coronado had no hits in the final five innings against a dominant relief performance from Gorman senior Kai Domingo.
But the damage was done, and Coronado senior Dylan Myers also held Gorman to two runs the rest of the way.
“In between games, I said absolutely nothing to them,” Padilla said. “I just let them go be, go sit in the shade.”
It was a case of a coach knowing his team, according to Blanchard. It was exactly what the Cougars needed to get their minds straight.
Gorman struck with a run in the first on a Kenny Meimerstorf sacrifice fly, but Blanchard answered with his first home run. That became the trend as Blanchard, with the Cougars down 4-1, helped tie the game in the fourth.
He pulled his team away with his first career three home run game in the next inning.
“Right off the bat, it felt amazing,” Blanchard described the game-winning drive. “I knew it was gone.”