RIO RANCHO — The red streaks in their hair were moving as quickly out of the visitors dugout as they were around the base paths.
With freshly-painted red hair for the entire No. 1 seed Volcano Vista softball team — coaches included — plus black eye paint, game-worn jerseys, dusty cleats and big smiles after their 6-4 win over No. 9 seed Cleveland on the Storm’s home field, four Hawks players made a beeline to the parking lot on Thursday afternoon with just over one hour until their graduation ceremonies began about 25 miles away.
“They’re on their way right now,” said Volcano Vista coach J.J. Garcia. “They allowed them to go (graduate) in their uniforms if they had to, so they’re getting over there right now. I’m going to get there, too, if I can.”
The Hawks played like they were in a hurry early, getting nine baserunners off eight hits and an error in the first three innings. But they also had three runners tagged out in the first three innings and didn’t break through with a run until junior centerfielder Bella Mendoza’s RBI single in what ended up being a four-run third inning.
Mendoza went 3-for-4 with a stolen base, a run scored and the RBI for Volcano Vista.
“I trust my hitters,” Garcia said. “I trust the process of the game. You can’t panic. We let it play out. If it’s early and we get runners on (but didn’t score), that’s fine. At least we were getting runners on.”
Junior Brooke Leger pitched a complete game, striking out 14 Cleveland hitters, and three of the four runs she allowed were unearned.
The Hawks play No. 12 Piedra Vista — the lowest seed in the field — in the second round of the double-elimination tournament today at 8:30 a.m. at Cleveland.
The Panthers scored two in the seventh to upset No. 4 Oñate 11-7. The Knights had tied the game with a six-run sixth, including a Kiara Armendarez grand slam.
Mayfield and Las Cruces meet in the other second-round winners bracket game this morning, also at 8:30.
No. 3 Valencia rode the arm of sophomore pitcher Julie Logan, who struck out nine and allowed four hits as the Jaguars beat No. 6 Alamogordo 3-1. It was a defensive struggle, aided by the wind blowing in, heavily at times, from the outfield at Cleveland High.
“Julie pitched extremely well for us,” said Valencia head coach Jeff Young. “She did a great job getting people out for us when we needed it. She was big for us. I’m happy where we’re at.”
Alamogordo eliminated Valencia from last year’s state tournament, and the Tigers aren’t done, yet. They beat Lovington 4-1 in the losers’ bracket to stay alive.
For Lovington, the trip to Albuquerque was a brief one. Despite being the No. 2 seed, the Wildcats were sent packing after a pair of losses, 4-2 to No. 7 Aztec and the elimination game to Alamogordo.
Aztec and Valencia play at 8:30 a.m. today at Cleveland, as do Artesia and Farmington in the winners’ bracket.
Silver goes for its eighth-consecutive state title today at Lobo Field. The Fighting Colts (25-4) beat No. 4 Robertson 9-0, and also No. 2 Bernalillo 7-2 on Thursday to advance to today’s title round in the double-elimination tournament.
Game one today is at noon against Bernalillo, which advanced by edging Cobre 8-7 on Thursday evening in the consolation bracket. An if-necessary game would be played at 4 p.m.
Defending champion and top-seeded Dexter (26-3) punched its ticket to today’s final at UNM with a pair of Thursday victories —13-3 over No. 5 Laguna Acoma and 9-2 over No. 3 Tularosa.
The Demons will play No. 2 Loving (23-6) in today’s championship after the Falcons won three consolation bracket games to force a rematch of last year’s title game. The first game of today’s championship series is at 10 a.m. with an if-necessary second game at 2 p.m.