The senior baseball players at Volcano Vista had a perfect Friday afternoon.
They graduated from high school – sort of. And they also celebrated as the Hawks advanced to the state championship game of the Class 5A state tournament. No. 1 seed Volcano Vista and District 1-5A rival Cleveland, the 3 seed, are the finalists for today’s 11 a.m. season finale at Isotopes Park after semifinal victories Friday at Santa Ana Star Field.
For the first time since 1987 (Highland), a team other than Carlsbad, Eldorado, Rio Rancho, Farmington or La Cueva will capture the big-school title.
Cleveland beat Volcano Vista two out of three games in the regular season – 9-7 in the metro semifinals and 12-7 in Rio Rancho. Volcano Vista walked Cleveland off 7-4 on April 9.
No. 1 VOLCANO VISTA 10, No. 5 RIO RANCHO 4: Texas Tech commit, junior left-hander Darius Garcia, who was facing the Rams’ lineup for the third time in the last month, threw a complete game for the Hawks (24-5). Volcano Vista scored eight of its runs in the third and fourth innings.
“Them not having a lot of quality at-bats the first two times through, and he’s our best guy, so it made a lot of sense,” Volcano Vista coach Kevin Andersh said about sending Garcia out again against Rio Rancho.
“He’s a stud,” Hawks shortstop Diego Cortes said. “Texas Tech has a good one.”
The Rams (24-6) had more success against Garcia than the first two meetings, with 12 hits, but they were scattered and, with one exception, they were all singles.
“They know my stuff, but I just had to overcome that and let my offense do the work,” Garcia (6-1) said.
Rio Rancho was leading 2-1 after Kevin Pietzrak’s two-run single in the top of the third. The Hawks tallied five runs in the bottom half as they chased Rio Rancho starter Alec Stanfield.
“We’re definitely in his (Stanfield’s) head,” said Cortes, who had three hits, including a pair of ground-rule doubles. “We all know Alec. We all know what he has to offer.”
Isaiah Ural had a two-run single for Volcano Vista in a three-run fourth.
Volcano Vista is in the state final for the third time, after losses to La Cueva in 2011 and Eldorado in 2015. After Friday’s game, Volcano Vista’s seniors posed for pictures in their black caps and gowns – most sporting eye black, too. The official ceremony was 2:30 p.m. Friday; the game started at 4.
No. 3 CLEVELAND 12, No. 7 PIEDRA VISTA 9: There were two offensive stars for the Storm (25-4). On most days, Treston Shallenberger’s outing – 4-for-5, two RBIs, two stolen bases, three runs from the leadoff spot – would have been the easy choice for best of the day.
Friday, it wasn’t. Sophomore cleanup hitter Christian Hoffman belted two home runs – the second a towering three-run blast to right field in the fourth inning – and drove in four.
“I just saw the pitch the whole way,” Hoffman said. “It looked like it was going in slow motion.”
Hoffman belted a solo shot in the second inning to tie the game 1-1.
“He’s our fireball,” said Shallenberger, Cleveland’s senior shortstop, of Hoffman. “He gets us going when we’re down. I like to think of that as a senior’s job, but he knows the game as well as any of us.”
Cleveland pushed five across in the third for a 6-1 lead, keyed by Isaac Toledo’s two-run single and Ethan Collins’ two-run home run to left.
Hoffman’s second homer made it 9-2. But the Panthers (21-9) forced Cleveland to sweat this out. Piedra Vista tallied twice in the fourth, three times in the fifth and twice more in the sixth to get within 11-9. An RBI single by Shallenberger in the seventh was the final run.
The Storm is in the final for the second time in three years, losing to La Cueva in 2017. Several current Storm starters filled key roles that year.