ALBUQUERQUE — The early season lead in District 1-5A was up for grabs Thursday afternoon, when visiting Rio Rancho collided with Volcano Vista, and both teams owning double-digit winning streaks.
As it turned out, the surging Rams (19-3, 2-0) were more than the Hawks (17-3, 1-1) could handle, thanks to an 11-hit attack that featured a three-run homer by Nicole Pendley and a two-run shot by Molly Harder.
It was the first time the Rams had beaten the Hawks in a district game; in Volcano Vista’s three previous seasons, the Hawks were 8-0 vs. the Rams in district encounters.
The shutout extended the Rams’ streak to 15 wins in a row and ended the Hawks’ streak at 10.
The Rams’ record for consecutive wins is 16, set in 2001, when they finished 21-3. Even in their lone championship season, 2003, they didn’t amass a streak like that, finishing with the blue trophy and a record of 19-9.
The Rams threatened early, stranding two base runners in a scoreless first inning.
They weren’t scoreless for long, as a walk to Victoria Lopez, a single by BreOnna Castaneda and a fielder’s choice left two runners aboard when Pendley socked her homer for a 3-0 lead.
The Rams padded their lead to 5-0 with two more runs in the fifth, on a single by Venessa Gallegos, a walk to Pendley, an RBI single by Jessie Roane and a sacrifice fly off the bat of Jordan Manno.
Rio Rancho made it 6-0 in the sixth, after Dominique Soto singled, stole second, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a single by Castaneda.
The Rams closed out the scoring in the seventh, when Pendley was walked again, followed by a walk to Roane. An attempted sacrifice by Manno turned into a double play, with Roane erased between second and third. Harder then clouted a shot over the fence for an 8-0 lead.
“I really felt after Nicole hit that one out they were going to walk her, and they did,” RRHS coach Paul Kohman said. “That’s the nice thing about this, we’ve got so many great kids with a lot of heart and fight that they’re showing this year, that it doesn’t matter who gets walked, behind them is somebody who’s going to produce.”
The Hawks were unable to get anyone beyond second base against Pendley, who scattered six singles, walked two and struck out five.
Near-perfect fielding — the Rams had only one error, on a ball misplayed at third by Roane — combined with the offense and pitching again gave credence to coach Paul Kohman’s repeated statements that this is his best RRHS team ever.
“As you well know, Volcano’s a great team,” he said. “There’s no question about that. Our kids did a great job; they did everything we could have asked of them. … That’s the type of game you like to be in.”
The Hawks were coming off a 4-1 victory over Cleveland on Tuesday. Cleveland’s outcome of its game with visiting Cibola Thursday evening wasn’t available on MaxPreps.com.
Bunts: Roane and Pendley each homered and drove in four runs Tuesday in the host Rams’ 12-8 victory over Cibola. RRHS led 8-3 after two innings and added four insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth.
… The Rams play host to Cleveland Tuesday at 4 at the Eagle Ridge softball complex. The Rams beat the Storm 4-3 in the championship game of the APS Metro tournament last month. On Thursday, the Rams are at Cibola at 4 and the Storm play host to Volcano Vista at 7 to start the second half of the district season.
… MaxPreps has the Rams at No. 1 in the state and No. 84 in the nation. “Without a doubt, we know this is the best offensive team we’ve ever had,” Kohman said. We’re hitting .460 as a team — is that crazy? This (11-for-28 day) may have lowered it a point or two.”