Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
Rio Rancho junior Brianna Gallegos could hardly contain herself when she rounded the bases after belting a momentous grand slam.
The excitement was seen in her face, and a joyous passion could be sensed in each of her strides as she made her way to home plate where her teammates waited to congratulate her.
Gallegos’ grand slam was the stuff of storybooks. It gave the Rams a 14-4 run-rule win for the Class 5A softball state championship over Carlsbad Saturday at Lobo Field. It also provided Gallegos with her 19th home run of the year, tying her with Val Swedberg (Cibola, 2010) for most home runs in a season in state history.
“I was so excited to see everyone at home,” said Gallegos, the Rams’ leadoff hitter, who has committed to play for New Mexico State. “I was so excited to see the huddle and get in there with them and celebrate with everyone. I was on the ground a little bit, but I was good.”
Before her grand slam, Gallegos was 0-for-2 with two walks, but some of her teammates believed she would hit a home run to end the game when she walked up to the plate with the bases loaded and two out in the bottom of the sixth inning.
“It’s great knowing that she can do that when it’s her time,” said junior Jessie Garcia. She came on strong as a relief pitcher for the Rams, who trailed 3-0 after 2½ innings. “I was talking to our trainer about who can hit a grand slam. I said, ‘I think she will.'”
Rio Rancho (28-3) won its fourth state title. Coach Paul Kohman, who has been with the program since the school opened 27 years ago, said it was the Rams’ first run-rule win in a state championship game.
The Rams came alive in the bottom of the third inning with five runs on five hits. Savana Martinez delivered a run-scoring triple to left field that brought in Labraida Tenorio, and Briana Martinez followed with another RBI triple to the right-field corner. Garcia contributed an RBI single, and Kionna King brought in a run with a double.
Carlsbad (23-7) came within 5-4 after the top of the fourth when Gabby Aragon’s single brought in Jessica Munro for a run. Munro, who doubled to reach, was ruled safe at home after sliding under the tag. But Rio Rancho scored three more runs in the bottom of the fourth inning with Briana Martinez providing the big highlight: a three-run home run over the fence in left field to give the Rams a 9-4 lead.
CLASS 4A: Artesia sophomore center fielder Presley Skinner nearly hit for the cycle with a home run, triple and a double to lead the Bulldogs to a 10-2 win over Silver for the championship.
Skinner hammered a solo home run over the fence in center field in the first inning. She sent a double to the gap in right center field to score two runs in the third inning. She led off the top of the fifth inning with a triple near the same area as her double.
Skinner, who popped out to left field in the sixth inning, said she wasn’t really thinking about the cycle. She only wanted to help Artesia win its second straight blue trophy.
“After that last out it’s like your heart almost stops,” Skinner said. “You run together on the field with the girls you’ve practiced with so many times, and it just feels so great.”
Senior catcher Melody Payne also hit a home run for Artesia, a solo shot over the fence in left field in the second inning.
Skinner led the Bulldogs to a 1-0 win over Silver on Thursday with a two-out RBI-single in the top of the seventh inning.
Silver City, which had won eight straight state championships, was bumped up a classification this season from 3A to 4A.
“We faced them three times this season,” said Artesia coach Sandra Pulido, whose Bulldogs won all three meetings. “There’s not a rivalry, but there’s a strong competition. We feed off how hard they play and play just as hard.”