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Prep tourneys reach crescendo this weekend

St. Pius is the top seed in the Class 4A state baseball tournament and will be relying heavily on standout left-hander Hayden Walker. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

It’s been almost nine months since the first official game of the 2018-19 prep school year.

It’s fewer than 72 hours to the last one.

A quick preview:

BASEBALL: The No. 1 seed in Class 5A, Volcano Vista, needed three games to get past Alamogordo in the first round. Is that a warning sign for the Hawks? Well, consider that La Cueva last year as a No. 1 seed was nine outs from being eliminated in the first round by Atrisco Heritage and came back to win a blue trophy seven days later.

Centennial, Carlsbad, Piedra Vista and Farmington hope to make inroads this week. La Cueva is the two-time defending big-school state champ, but the Scorpions were the 5A champions last May.

The Bears enter the playoffs with a rare underdog label. They face Cleveland Thursday in the quarterfinals.

The 5A championship game is 11 a.m. Saturday at Isotopes Park.

One thing every classification has in common is that most teams will have their No. 1 starting pitchers going Thursday.

The top of the 4A bracket has some well-rounded groups, none more equipped than top-seeded St. Pius which faces district rival Belen this morning in the quarterfinals. In the bottom half, No. 2 Goddard and No. 3 Artesia lead the way.

It’s been six years since East Mountain has come to state with a team as good as this one, as the Timberwolves meet New Mexico Military Institute in the 3A quarterfinals at 10 a.m. Thursday. Robertson is the No. 1 seed. Texico in 2A and Gateway Christian in 1A also bring No. 1 seeds to the metro area.

Santa Ana Star Field is hosting the other four state finals, all on Saturday and finishing with the 4A final at 6 p.m.

TRACK AND FIELD: Class 5A and 4A take over the University of New Mexico complex on Friday and Saturday.

Among the many outstanding athletes who will be on display, here are some of the boys names and story lines to watch:

Taos sprinter/jumper Jonah Vigil (100, 200, 400, long jump) and Kirtland Central distance runner Kashon Harrison, especially in the 3,200, both will be capping their marvelous careers Saturday. … La Cueva junior Connor O’Toole, he of the six Division I football scholarship offers (so far), is qualified in five events individually, but watch him especially in both hurdles, where he could duel with Rio Rancho’s Noah Fay, and the open 100. … Albuquerque Academy’s Zach Jaramillo has been the state’s preeminent javelin thrower. … Cleveland’s Yonas Haile, who lost to a fresher Stevie Salas of La Cueva in the 3,200 at metros, will look for a strong finish to his prep career in that event. … Two pole vaulters with high hopes are La Cueva’s Holden Mueller, who is returning from an injury, and Hope Christian’s Vince Quezada. … Cleveland’s Andre Romero is the No. 1 seed in the 5A discus and shot put.

For the girls:

Sandia sophomore sprinter Adriana Tatum could break the state record in the 100 and/or 200 on Saturday; her metro times in both events were better than the existing state marks. … Jane Archibeck of Albuquerque Academy has been the premier distance runner in the state, dominating in the 1,600 and 3,200. … Taos’ Faith Powell will be a force in the jumps and in sprints. … There could be a terrific final in the 5A 300 hurdles between La Cueva’s Israel Swanson (the favorite in the 100 hurdles), Cleveland’s Hannah Kiess and Santa Fe’s Judith Allison. … Goddard’s Destiny Lawrence could sweep the three sprint finals in 4A and is the top seed in the 100, 200 and 400. … Other distance runners to follow are Eldorado’s Jasmine Turtle-Morales, Albuquerque High’s Alisa Meraz-Fishbein and Albuquerque Academy’s Grace Alley. … Los Alamos thrower Rebecca Green could be a multiple state champion.

SOFTBALL: Single elimination in the first round gives way this week to the frantic nature of an often grueling double-elimination format for the larger classes.

Rio Rancho was the dominant 5A team and turned away all comers, including the teams seeded directly behind them. Rio Rancho was a combined 4-0 against No. 2 Carlsbad and No. 3 Volcano Vista, although the one matchup with Carlsbad was a thrilling 9-8 victory.

Three double-digit seeds survived the first weekend, and two of them, No. 12 Farmington and No. 13 Hobbs, meet Thursday. The third is No. 10 Cleveland, probably the youngest team in the field. District 1-5A has four of the final eight with the Rams, Volcano Vista, No. 6 Cibola and Cleveland, the latter two owning wins over 24-3 Rio Rancho.

The Class 5A final is scheduled at noon Saturday at Lobo Field. An “if necessary” game would follow later in the day.

Class 4A has two defending state champions: Artesia, the 5A winner a year ago, and Silver in 4A. The Colts have won eight consecutive titles, but in the third-largest class. Now they’re in the second largest and on track to face Artesia Thursday in the top half of the bracket. Hoping to make noise in the other half are No. 2 Los Lunas and No. 6 Bernalillo.

Robertson (3A) and Eunice (1A-2A) are also No. 1 seeds this week.

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