ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Carlsbad in town with gaudy stats
RIO RANCHO — Inasmuch as the defending state champion of Class 5A baseball has to prove its fortitude, the Carlsbad Cavemen have reached the résumé building portion of the 2013 season.
Carlsbad came north to Rio Rancho’s Sal Puentes Invitational with the credentials you’d expect to find from a team that lost only one starter from last year — a gaudy 9-1 record, a run differential of 91-10 and a team earned run average of 0.56.
Even the Cavemen acknowledge just how misleading those numbers are.
“These next six games,” Carlsbad coach Cody May said, “are what we consider the what-we’re-made-of part of the schedule.”
The Cavemen took a while to get going Thursday afternoon in the first round of the Puentes Invite, but they erupted for 13 runs over the final three innings to beat St. Pius 15-6.
Carlsbad (10-1) meets Cleveland (7-4) at 3:30 p.m. today in the semifinals. That is preceded at 1 p.m. by a metro championship game rematch between La Cueva (6-2) and the host Rams (12-1).
The Cavemen haven’t been tested all that much in the first month. Mayfield beat Carlsbad 1-0 on Opening Day, but that’s the lone blemish.
“The competition hasn’t been real great,” May admitted, “but on the other hand, we’ve played real well. We just have to keep them together and keep them humble.”
After Carlsbad surrendered just 10 runs in 10 games, St. Pius (8-3) touched up the Cavemen for half a dozen. And the Sartans led early 3-0. But the Cavemen scored five runs in the fifth — sparked by Brandon Slate’s go-ahead, three-run home run over the left-field foul pole and Dev’n Ortiz’s two-run shot to the same spot moments later — to seize a 7-4 lead.
Slate’s home run, teammate Caleb Prentiss said with a smile, was actually a foul ball. This was the game’s key moment, since there were two outs at the time.
The Cavemen added eight runs in the seventh inning.
“Our pitching has been there, our sticks have been there, and we’re having fun playing the game like we know how,” third baseman Slate, one of 13 returners, said.
This is the first of consecutive trips to the metro area for Carlsbad. After dispatching a solid 4A team in St. Pius, the Cavemen will hook up with either Rio Rancho or La Cueva on Saturday.
Next weekend, Carlsbad is coming back here to play Piedra Vista (the defending 4A state champ), along with Volcano Vista and Eldorado.
“I’m looking forward to all those Albuquerque (area) schools,” said Prentiss, a junior left-hander who is 4-0 with a miniscule 0.64 ERA and who will pitch Saturday in the finals, if the Cavemen get there. “I like playing against some competition.”
May said he has six reliable arms, and pitching depth, more than anything, tends to dictate who wins state.
Last year was Carlsbad’s first state title since 2002.
“That kick-started, hopefully, a couple of more,” said Prentiss, among the state’s best pitchers and almost certainly New Mexico’s top southpaw. “I think we surprised a lot of people, even in our own hometown.”
RIO RANCHO 2, GODDARD 0: Lefty Evan Offutt, who could easily be Class 5A’s MVP at the midway point, threw a complete-game two-hitter and drove in both runs with a single in the first inning. It was the Rockets’ first loss of the season after starting 5-0.
LA CUEVA 9, CLOVIS 0: Another left-hander, Trey Alexanderson, struck out six and walked none in a complete-game two-hitter for the Bears.
CLEVELAND 7, ARTESIA 1: Kyle Bilbo went the distance and gave up just three hits for the Storm.
Artesia will play the Rio Rancho JV instead of St. Pius in today’s consolation bracket. The Sartans cannot play on Good Friday. But St. Pius will return to the tournament Saturday.
— This article appeared on page D6 of the Albuquerque Journal