ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — RIO RANCHO – St. Michael’s road to the Class 3A state semifinals was due in large part to the loose, almost carefree attitude toward the success they were having in these final weeks of the baseball season.
Then again, that’s eerily similar to Ruidoso’s path to Cleveland High on Friday.
But the Horsemen discovered it’s not easy to stay so loose after giving up seven runs in an inning.
“That infield hit started it,” Horsemen coach David Vigil said. “(Parker Johnson) got up the line so quick I think it even surprised our second baseman. That was the start of a big inning.”
The Warriors posted seven runs in the fourth inning to advance to their first-ever state baseball title game, with a 9-3 victory over No. 6 St. Mike’s (22-9) in the Class 3A semifinals. Johnson set the tone for No. 7 Ruidoso (15-13), legging out a routine ground ball to second base to lead off the decisive inning. He then stole second and headed home on a Jordan Wright single before St. Mike’s knew what hit it. Aaron Shelley’s three-RBI triple then capped off the scoring during Ruidoso’s big at-bat.
“That base-clearing gapper killed us,” Vigil said. “We wanted to make (a pitching) move as soon as possible, but before we knew it, it was a seven-run inning.”
Horsemen starter Marc Brandt was chased after allowing his second free pass of the at-bat, including hitting the second batter of the inning. Brandt tossed a one-hitter through three innings, but allowed seven runs on seven hits in the fourth.
“It was a weird inning,” Brandt said. “The infield single, then I hit a batter when the ball slipped out of my hand. They just jumped on my mistakes and scored runs. They did their job today. … I thought I could get out of it, but their momentum carried them – they poked balls into spots our players weren’t playing.”
St. Mike’s opened the contest, scoring a run in each of the first two innings. It would not score again until its final at-bat. Brandt paced the Horsemen at the plate, going 1-for-2 with a triple and two RBIs.
With the loss, the Horsemen suffered a semifinal exit for the second-straight season.
West Las Vegas coach Lucas Griego’s day began with a 13-3 rout at the hands of No. 2 Silver, and ended with a chance to play for a state title.
The Lady Dons rebounded from a mercy-rule loss in game one of the double-elimination Class 3A state tournament at the Lobo Softball Field to fend off No. 6 Hope Christian with a 10-7 win in the night cap. And Griego was well aware of how dangerous the Huskies would be after they eliminated St. Michael’s earlier in the day with a seventh-inning, four-run rally to win 8-7.
“They’re all fast,” he said. “If anyone would have messed around, it would have been a new ball game. But my kids did great.”
WLV scored nine runs in the final four innings, before Hope began shipping away at its deficit. But the host squad, which trailed by as many as six runs, could only close to within three before WLV slammed the door shut.
Now, the No. 5 Lady Dons are in the unique situation of being able the same team it lost to in the semis in the span of 24 hours.
“Now I know what they have so I’ll be hitting the books tonight,” Griego said. “And maybe the softball Gods will help me – no team from northern New Mexico has ever won a softball state title. But, you never know.”
Silver needs to win just one game to claim it’s third-straight title, while WLV will need two wins.