That makes the school’s recent success in baseball a little more special.
“Rancho’s last state title in any sport came in 1988 and the last baseball state title was in 1976,” Rams baseball coach Tom Pletsch said. “That was 35 years ago, and ironically, I was a member of that team. Since then, the demographics at the school have changed. It’s low-income from a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood.”
What’s helped Rancho’s baseball program is the school offers magnate programs for the aviation and medical fields. Pletsch said the school has gotten a lot of baseball players who don’t live in the Rancho zone but who have chosen to attend because they are interested in those areas of study.
“We’re slowly closing the gap on everybody,” Pletsch said. “This will be our second straight trip to the state tournament. The team is definitely one of the highlights for the school. We are really proud of what we’ve done. The kids have worked hard. It’s not happened overnight. The school is proud of where we’re at and we’re hoping to win a state title.”
The first test for Rancho toward winning that state title comes today when it hosts Sparks school Spanish Springs High, the Northern 4A champion. The two teams meet in a first-round state tournament game today at Lied Field on the CCSN campus in Henderson at 3 p.m.
So what does Pletsch know about his opponent from the North?
“Very little,” he admitted. “I know they have a couple of very good players in Jake Bray and Tanner Oates. That information is from reading the news media more than anything. I’m sure at this point, Spanish Springs will bring a very quality team down here. We’re not taking them lightly. We expect a dogfight and we’ll see what happens.”
Pletsch is right about Bray and Oates. The Cougars pretty much go as they go. Oates, who had an array of scholarship offers from all size schools, chose to attend Willamette University in Salem, Ore. The second baseman hit .508 this spring with 12 homers and 50 RBIs. Bray will go to Jacksonville State in Alabama. The shortstop hit .485 with 8 homers and 33 RBIs.
Rancho has its hare of players with impressive accolades. Brandon Pletsch, the coach’s son, Eric Holdren, a right-handed pitcher, and Zach Qualls, a left-handed pitcher, all have signed to play baseball at UNLV. Another Rams standout, Kevin Kline will also play Division I college baseball, at Southern Utah.
Kline and Pletsch hit .557 and .505 respectively this spring and combined for 15 homers. Qualls and Holdren are the Rams top two hurlers and have ERAs of 2.42 and 2.62.
Those four players have been four-year players for the Rams.
“Four years ago, we started five freshmen. Their experience has been huge,” Coach Pletsch said. “We’ve got a talented group that pitches and that can hit the ball well. It’s a matter of us doing what we’re supposed to do. We have as good a chance as anyone to be there Saturday.”
The Rams are on a roll. They’ve won 11 of their last 13 games and are looking to win their next three en route to hanging a state championship banner.
“Normally, the team that wins it is playing its best at this time of the year,” Pletsch said. “Earlier in the year, we were nationally ranked but we struggled a little bit, losing two of our first four. But we’ve been playing better ball down the stretch.. At this point, the team that gets good pitching, doesn’t boot the ball and gets some timely hits, that’s the one that comes out on top.”