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Rio Rancho walks into 5A finals

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RIO RANCHO – The emotions of a state tournament format like softball can run the gamut in a very short time.

Thanks to a 4-for-4 showing at the plate, along with three RBIs from star catcher Jade Gray, No. 3 Volcano Vista built a 4-1 lead in the second inning and was up 7-6 with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning Friday morning at Cleveland High School against No. 1 Rio Rancho.

On the brink of becoming the first team in the state to beat the mighty Rams this season, the Hawks then saw the wheels come off.

Rio Rancho's Victoria Lopez, right, scores the game-winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning in Friday's Class 5A semifinal at Cleveland High School. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

Rio Rancho’s Victoria Lopez, right, scores the game-winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning in Friday’s Class 5A semifinal at Cleveland High School. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

With the bases loaded, Celina Sullivan walked back-to-back batters – bringing home for Rio Rancho (27-3) the game-tying, then game-winning runs to advance to today’s championship round.

The Hawks (23-5), who went 0-4 this season against Rio Rancho, weren’t able to bounce back in their afternoon elimination bracket rematch with No. 2 Oñate (29-3).

Volcano Vista committed five errors in a 5-1 loss to Oñate, which plays Rio Rancho today at 1 p.m.

“That first game really took a lot out of us,” Volcano Vista head coach Cheryl Johnson said. “And (Oñate) was really good today. Give them credit.”

Oñate right fielder Sabrina Martinez hit a home run to center field in the fourth inning for a 2-1 lead that proved to be all they’d need.

“I think we just looked like a different team today,” Oñate head coach Fernie Valles said. “After the loss (Thursday to Volcano Vista), we didn’t say a word about it. We just came back here (Friday) and played like we normally do, won three games and now we get to go try to beat a really good Rio Rancho team.”

DOUBLE DUTY: Rio Rancho pitcher Nicole Pendley will not only return to the pitching circle for the Rams today, she’ll also be vying for a javelin title at the 5A track & field championships.

Class 4A

No. 7 Bernalillo’s run ended Friday night at Lobo Field with a pair of losses – 11-0 to No. 1 Piedra Vista, then 6-2 to No. 2 Aztec.

The Spartans (23-6) had upset Aztec 3-2 on Thursday.

The Panthers are playing for their ninth consecutive state title today, at 11 a.m. at Lobo Field against district rival Aztec, a team Piedra Vista beat in the last two 4A title games.

Class 3A

No. 4 Hope Christian beat No. 3 Bloomfield 10-5 and will play top-seed Silver at 9 a.m. for the state title at Lobo Field.

A MyKell Rivera RBI bunt single in the bottom of the fifth tied the game at 4-4, setting up a three-run home run by catcher Kayla Simmons over the left field wall that put Hope up 7-4.

“I think she (Simmons) was upset with herself because the inning before, she wasn’t able to execute the squeeze play and got a runner out at third,” Hope coach Ron Romero said. “She felt like she had to make up for it.”

The Huskies (19-12) won three games Friday.

Class 1A-2A

No. 2 Loving (19-6) on Friday won its third consecutive state title, and for the second straight season did so by knocking off southern New Mexico rival Cobre (30-4).

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