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Class 4A baseball: Hope, Bernalillo advance to championship

It has been 62 years since Bernalillo High School last won a state baseball championship.

The Spartans will have a chance to end that drought today.

No. 6 seed Bernalillo and No. 1 Hope Christian won semifinal games Friday at Santa Ana Star Field, setting up today’s noon final at Isotopes Park.

No. 6 BERNALILLO 6, No. 2 SILVER 4: The Spartans (21-9) scored all their runs in the first three innings, then held off the Colts (22-8) behind the terrific – and tenacious – pitching effort of junior Dominic Tenorio.

“It means a whole lot,” Bernalillo coach Brandon Gilliard said of advancing to the final. “The only state banner hanging in the school is from 1956, and these guys have a chance to make history.”

Silver starter Alex Granado walked the first two batters of the game, Isaiah Chavez and Andre Bethea.

Damian Gutierrez two batters later scored Chavez with a sacrifice fly, and Tenorio singled home Bethea. Chavez’s RBI single in the second drove in Aaron Neely, who had tripled.

And Chavez – at the end of a long at-bat – drove in two more runs in the third with a single for a 6-2 lead.

The Colts scored single runs in the fourth and seventh innings, and had the potential tying run at second base when Tenorio got a ground ball to end the game.

The Spartans last played in a baseball title game in 2003 under coach Manuel Montaño, who coached Bernalillo’s softball team into this season’s state final.

“I told them, ‘I think we are one of the best teams in the state, and if you show up, we can prove it,'” Gilliard said.

N o . 1 HOPE CHRISTIAN 13, N o . 4 PORTALES 3 (6 inn.): The Huskies (24-6) spotted the Rams (19-11) two runs in the top of the first then got down to business, ending the game on the mercy rule for the second straight day.

“I wasn’t expecting it,” Hope coach Glen Copeland said. “I know we’re swinging the bats real well right now, but that’s a big rival of ours.”

Huskies catcher Brandon Bagon had a simple explanation for the team’s prowess with the bats thus far.

“We’ve been hitting every day for about an hour right before the game,” he said. “The coaches have been working with us. So I think it’s the warm up. We’ve had this in us all year, being able to do this. We try to stay confident and relaxed because when you’re confident and relaxed, everything just flows naturally. You just make sweet contact all of the time.”

Bagon was one of several Huskies making sweet contact, smacking two doubles, while teammate Evan Torres had three hits and three runs.

Copeland said Hope’s loss to the Rams in the championship game last season also has been a factor.

“I’d be lying if I said the state championship game wasn’t motivational,” he said. “I don’t feel like we played our best baseball that day. And that sat with the whole program for a full year. So that certainly started it.”

 – Glen Rosales

Journal Staff Writer James Yodice contributed to this story.