Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2011 | 2:05 a.m.
The Las Vegas Valley is home to two of the nation’s best high school baseball teams.
Five-time defending state champion Bishop Gorman and Rancho, which lost to Gorman in last year’s championship game, are ranked in the top 30 nationally in the 2011 Easton National High School pre-season poll. The poll was released last week.
Rancho, which returns virtually its entire roster from last year’s team that finished 33-5, is ranked No. 7. Gorman, with first-year coach Nick Day, is No. 15.
“It was kind of shocking to be honest with you," Rancho coach Tom Pletsch said about the national exposure. “We expected Gorman to be ranked higher than us. Until we dethrone Gorman, we don’t deserve it.”
Pletsch, a 1979 Rancho graduate, is in his fourth year at the helm of the program. In his first year, it finished 6-19 while playing five freshmen.
Those five are now some of the city’s best players. Eight from Rancho are committed to play in college, including pitchers Zak Qualls and Eric Holden, and shortstop Brandon Pletsch (the coach’s son) to UNLV.
“We took our lumps early, but each year we have progressed in putting this thing back together,” coach Pletsch said.
Last year, Rancho had three defeats by a combined five runs entering the playoffs. It went undefeated in winning the Sunrise Regional tournament, but couldn’t get past Gorman in the double-elimination state tournament. Rancho went 1-2 against Gorman at state, dropping the championship game 13-0 in five innings after it ran out of pitching.
Gorman, a national power, is accustomed to being the clear-cut favorite to win state. The Gaels return two of the area’s top players Erik Van Meetren and T.J. White — both have signed with UNLV.
“For me, it’s good and bad,” Day said. “It’s good to recognized and nice to be respected. But it’s just the preseason. Our guys haven’t earned anything. Our guys haven’t done anything.”
Day replaces Chris Sheff, who built Gorman into a dynasty before leaving last summer for a college job. In addition to the high school state titles, Gorman also reached the American Legion World Series three times under Sheff, winning the national title in 2008.
A championship this spring for Gorman would equal Green Valley’s state-best streak of six straight crowns from 1993 to 1998.
Besides Rancho, Gorman will have its hands full with Southwest Division rival Sierra Vista. Sierra Vista’s Legion affiliate beat Gorman’s last summer, and returns shortstop Jake Hager. Hager, who signed with Arizona State, is arguably the state’s top player.
"Losing to Sierra Vista makes people think they can beat you," Day said. "That is scary."
Rancho, one of the oldest schools in Southern Nevada, hasn’t won a state title since 1976. This year, at least according to the preseason polls, it could get over the hump.
“Gorman, Sierra Vista and Rancho. Any one of us could finish one, two, three,” Pletsch said.