INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Jacob Leoncio broke for home plate as soon as the West Wendover pitcher went into his windup.
The Incline senior blazed down the third base line while the lefty rocked back and by the time he was ready to deliver his pitch, Leoncio was already sliding across the plate.
Leoncio stole home to lift the Highlanders to a 9-8 victory and into the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association Class 2A State Baseball Championship tournament that will be held Thursday through Saturday, May 16-18, at The Meadows School in Las Vegas.
“Jacob is my best, smartest baserunner, and it was the perfect storm,” said Incline head coach Billy Knight.
Incline trailed West Wendover 8-7 entering the final inning, a score that was inexplicable to Knight.
The Highlanders had pounded the Wolverines three out of the four times they played this season, including a 15-5 drubbing in five innings the day before in the first round of the association’s northern regional tournament in Yerington.
“We shouldn’t have been in that situation,” Knight said. “We’ve pummeled that team this year but we looked like a bunch of Little Leaguers. We made errors, they took the lead and we just couldn’t stop it. I wanted to run out there and stick my finger in the dike to stop it but I couldn’t. It was tough.”
Incline senior Trent Green led off the bottom of the seventh and shot a single through the infield and into right field.
Leoncio followed with a hard grounder that the second baseman couldn’t handle and Dalton Fry was next and was hit with a pitch.
Bases loaded, nobody out, with the 3-4-5 hitters coming up to hit.
Incline was in business.
Jake Harrell, the team’s MVP and best hitter at .528 for the season, came to the plate and popped out.
Clean up hitter Matt Poalillo came up and sent a shallow fly ball to center.
Green’s first couple of steps off third were towards home plate.
Knight said he almost went out there and tackled him to bring him back to tag up.
Green made it back to third just as the center fielder made the catch and broke for home.
He was called safe on a bang-bang play and all the runners advanced.
Whew! Tie game instead of going home for the season very disappointed.
Knight wasn’t going to take any chances on waiting for a clutch hit.
At first, he lost track of the outs and called for a pinch hitter and planned to squeeze bunt to score the winning run.
“I brain-farted and my players caught me so I was able to back out of that,” Knight said.
Knight, coaching at third base, walked back to Leoncio and said, “You’re stealing home on the second pitch, get your timing down and don’t give anything away on the first pitch.”
Leoncio got the pitcher’s wind up timed up perfectly and made the play of the game, if not the season.
“The pitcher was slow and just inviting Jacob to steal home,” Knight said. “Jacob and I had talked about this all year and it was just an incredible moment.”
The Highlanders jumped on the Wolverines and led 4-0 after two innings but found themselves trailing 7-5 after four innings and 8-6 heading into the bottom of the sixth.
Fry carried the big bat for the Highlanders by smacking a double and home run and driving in two runs while scoring two more.
Also for Incline (18-6), Harrell singled twice and Collins, Gage Pierce and Brayden Hock all had singles.
The Highlanders after beating West Wendover faced Yerington for the regional title and fell 13-2 in five innings. Incline would have had to beat Yerington twice to claim the title and didn’t have enough pitching to win three games in one day.
Incline next will play the top seed form the southern region, Lincoln County, at 4 p.m. Thursday.
If the Highlanders win, they will the winner between Yerington and The Meadows at 10 a.m. Friday. Lose and they play the loser between those two teams at 1 p.m.