Manzano Ousted; Ravens Advance
Nothing goes together like bacon, eggs … and baseball?
Cibola and Sandia took America’s pastime to a new level with a Saturday morning special in the Class 5A state baseball tournament.
First pitch was scheduled for 8:30 a.m. – about two hours after Matadors coach Mike Robertson rolled into the parking lot to get things ready.
“It was fun because coach Hendrick made everybody eggs and bacon for breakfast,” Robertson said, referring to his pitching coach, Dave Hendrick.
“It’s not hard, it’s baseball,” added Sandia shortstop Aaron Sandoval. “I got here at 6:45, but we’re just playing a game. It’s easy.”
Sandoval hit a game-tying two-run home run in the bottom of sixth inning as the sixth-seeded Matadors (20-8) rallied for a 4-3 win to clinch the best-of-three series.
Sandia advances to next week’s quarterfinals against No. 3 Las Cruces. The Bulldawgs routed Manzano 13-3 to sweep their series down south.
Saturday’s morning affair was necessitated by Cibola’s scheduled noon graduation ceremony at Tingley Coliseum. Had the Cougars (12-16) won, a third game at 3 p.m. would have been necessary.
Thanks to Sandoval and a productive sixth inning, both teams packed things in early.
Cibola built a 3-1 lead by scoring runs in the third, fourth and fifth innings. On the flip side was Cougars starting pitcher Jimmy Hassel. Effective but not dominant, he held the Matadors in check until the sixth.
That’s when Nicasio Gonzalez started the inning with a single. Sandoval followed with a no-doubt-about-it homer to left-center to make it 3-3.
“He threw me a fastball just like every other at-bat the whole game,” Sandoval said. “I knew it was coming. I just needed to hit it hard somewhere.”
The home run spoiled an otherwise solid outing by Hassel, but it paved the way for the game-winning run on a single to center by Kevin Collier.
“(Hassel) did a really good job of changing speeds and mixing things up, but I thought we adjusted well when we had to,” Robertson said.
With Robert Gunther on second and one out, Collier dribbled one up the middle off reliever Taylor Dudley. Gunther scored without a throw, then came on in the top of the seventh to earn his fifth save of the season and second in as many days against Cibola.
Gonzalez (3-1) earned the win in relief. He spelled Mark Hendrick in the fifth, allowing two hits and no runs in 1 1/3 innings.
Sandoval finished 2-for-3, as did Collier. Gunther scored twice and had a stolen base before taking the mound.
And as for the early start – Robertson didn’t seem to mind given the outcome.
“We’re still going,” he said. “We’ll be playing next week, so I’m fine with that.”
LAS CRUCES 13, MANZANO 3 (6): At Apodaca Park in Las Cruces, the third-seeded Bulldawgs (24-4) used a seven-run fifth inning to erase a 3-2 deficit and complete the series sweep against the 14th-seeded Monarchs (11-17).
Las Cruces had seven hits, including a home run, in the decisive inning as Manzano starter Scott Ringler failed to hold onto the lead. Monarchs coach Jim Briggs was ejected in the inning for arguing a call.
Kyle Banegas earned the win on the mound for the Bulldawgs, who advance to the quarterfinals to meet sixth-seeded Sandia.
RIO GRANDE 6, HOBBS 5: At Rio Grande, Chris Payne’s RBI single in the bottom of the seventh inning scored Tyral Cawthon with the winning run to advance the fourth-seeded Ravens (23-5).
The 13th-seeded Eagles (12-16) had tied the game with five runs in the top of the seventh.
Oscar Almeida (8-1) got the win, but in unorthodox fashion. He was the starter before being pulled early in the top of the seventh. After two relievers failed to do the job, Almeida came back in to close Hobbs out.
Almeida also hit a home run, his 13th of the season. Ryan Marquez homered and drove in three for Rio Grande, which will face Oñate in the quarterfinals.
Journal staff writer James Yodice contributed to this story.