La Cueva Sweep Earns Crown in District 2-5A
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It’s been a difficult week for the La Cueva baseball program, but when it finally ended, the Bears were walking familiar ground.
The second-ranked Bears swept No. 10 Sandia 11-1 and 13-7 in a doubleheader on Saturday afternoon, thus clinching — again — the District 2-5A championship.
La Cueva (17-4, 6-0 in 2-5A) lost two standout players earlier in the week who violated the school district’s drug and alcohol policy, but the Bears went 3-0 in their absence this week. And on Saturday, La Cueva dispatched one of the most dangerous, if unpredictable, teams in all of 5A, the Matadors.
“We were disappointed at first that our teammates did that, but we looked past it,” said La Cueva senior Tyler Gibson. “We have a lot of good, talented guys — on the field and on the bench. One guy goes out, we have another coming up.”
Seniors Matt Smith and Kevin Ade were given 45-day suspensions from extracurricular activities Wednesday after they and a JV player were caught with drug paraphernalia Tuesday before practice.
Smith batted leadoff and was one of the state’s premier shortstops. Ade, a first baseman, was having a huge season in the cleanup slot for La Cueva.
The Bears, however, are nothing if not long on talent.
Zach Cogan, who ordinarily fills the designated hitter role for the Bears, was playing first base Saturday. Gibson was at third base, and La Cueva shifted the previous third baseman, Tyler Straub, to shortstop.
Despite the upheaval, the Bears beat Manzano 13-5 on Wednesday and followed that up with two important wins Saturday.
“We just kept our heads up. What happened, happened, and we’ve moved on,” said senior outfielder/pitcher Stephen Carabajal, who tossed a three-hitter in the opener. “Three wins (this week) says so much about our team and the character we have.”
La Cueva’s offense, which has been red hot of late, continued to swing it well.
The Bears batted around in the second inning of the first game, with Straub’s bases-loaded triple the key blow. Reece Lucero’s two-run home run in the fifth ended the game.
The second game was much closer.
Sandia (10-11, 2-4) had come from behind to erase a 4-0 in the fifth and tie the game. The Bears retook the lead 5-4 in the bottom half, but the Matadors scored twice in the sixth for a 6-5 edge.
The first eight La Cueva batters in the bottom of the sixth reached safely as the Bears batted around once more.
Carabajal’s two-RBI single to right broke a 6-6 tie, and later Colton Snell added a two-run double to left for an 11-6 lead. La Cueva scored eight times in the inning.
Carabajal said La Cueva has taken recent events in stride.
“It’s hard losing those two guys, but I think we’ll be fine,” he said. “I think we’ll make a huge impact at state.”
♦ Third-ranked Eldorado swept a pair of 2-5A games from Manzano, 6-1 and 12-2.
Tyler McCulloch (5-1) threw a two-hitter in the opener for the Eagles (15-6, 3-3), and he also had three hits.
Davis Cantwell and Sam Segotta homered in the second game for Eldorado, and Cullen O’Dwyer pitched a complete game.
The Monarchs are 8-13 and 1-4.
♦ No. 1 Volcano Vista (19-2, 6-0 in 1-5A) was pushed to the brink twice by Cibola (6-15, 1-5), but the Hawks won both ends of a doubleheader. Volcano Vista scored six runs in the sixth inning and five in the seventh of the first game to erase a 10-4 deficit and post a 15-10 victory.
Andre Vigil hit a grand slam during the sixth — his fourth of the season and 14th overall — while Dano Gassoway added a three-run shot in the seventh.
The Hawks shoved across two runs in the top of the seventh of the second game to eke out an 8-7 victory.
Volcano Vista needs only one win in its final three games to clinch the 1-5A title.
♦ At Rio Rancho, fourth-ranked Cleveland swept the Rams 11-3 and 12-2.
Natty Lucero threw a four-hitter in the opener for the Storm (17-6, 4-2 in 1-5A), while J.J. Thomas homered and Blake Swihart and Matt Villalobos each drove in a pair of runs.
Villalobos added three more RBIs in the second game, giving him 50 for the season, as Cleveland completed the sweep. Rio Rancho is 11-12 overall and 1-5 in district.
— This article appeared on page D9 of the Albuquerque Journal