ALBUQUERQUE — Getting to the state championship baseball game at Isotopes Park twice in the past three seasons is a remarkable feat.
Winning one of them would have been nice, but the Cleveland High baseball team, ending its season with a record 25 wins, keeps running into a better baseball team on the days those games were contested.
Two years ago, the Storm fell to La Cueva. This spring, Cleveland beat those Bears in the quarterfinals, downed former District 1-5A foe Piedra Vista in a semifinal game, and then ran into No. 1 seed Volcano Vista, the 1-5A champ, and pitcher Ryan Curran, who limited the Storm to three hits.
Volcano Vista (25-5) beat the Storm 7-5 on a beautiful Saturday morning, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort. After the Hawks, who lost two of three previous meetings with the Storm, took a 2-0 lead in the top of the second inning, the third-seeded Storm came back with four of their own.
None of the Storm’s first 11 batters put the ball in play: Curran walked six of them and struck out the other five. But he loaded the bases in the second after walking Ethan Collins, Colten Madison and Treston Shallenberger — who stole home in the first inning, only to not have his run count when batter Isaac Toledo struck out on the pitch — followed by a bases-loaded walk to Damien Roddy.
Roy Jennings followed with a two-run single to right-center, and Roddy scored the fourth run on an infield error on a ball hit by Christian Hoffman. With runners then on the corners, Toledo popped out to short to end the rally.
Volcano Vista batted around in the fourth, taking the lead to keep while scoring four runs off CHS starter Collins (4-2). Roddy relieved him, getting the final two outs and fly balls to Jennings in center.
The Storm scored their final run in the sixth off reliever Damien Griego, when Madison was hit by a pitch, went to second on Shallenberger’s infield hit, headed to third on a sacrifice by Roddy and plated on Hoffman’s sacrifice fly. Toledo again ended the rally on a soft line drive to second base.
With Shallenberger on the mound in the seventh, the Hawks scored an unearned run to make it 7-5.
Griego slammed the door on the Storm in the seventh, getting Jaren Jackson on a come-backer, then fanning Collins and Ryan Marez.
“We battled, yeah,” coach Shane Shallenberger said. “I’m proud of these guys. You know what? There are only two teams playing today, and we’re one of them. Volcano’s an excellent team and they had a solid season.
“I don’t think there’s much more we could’ve done; I wish we could have hit a little better, got something going,” he added. “We had the lead for a few innings there.”
Storm 12, Piedra Vista 9: In Friday’s semifinal at Santa Ana Star Field, there were two offensive stars for the Storm.
On most days, 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. 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, a sophomore, 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 Toledo’s two-run single and Collins’s 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.
No. 5 Rio Rancho had its championship hopes dashed Friday evening after a 10-4 loss to the Hawks, who two weeks earlier had deprived them of the 1-5A title at RRHS, a 9-1 complete-game outing.
Volcano Vista 10, Rams 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.
VVHS 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.
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.
RRHS was leading 2-1 after Kevin Pietrzak’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.
(Albuquerque Journal sports writer James Yodice contributed to this story.)