ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Five-run 6th inning is the difference
Kent Keeling is a neophyte when it comes to the rivalry between St. Pius and Albuquerque Academy.
But he was quickly schooled on its importance, and then he quickly acclimated himself to his surroundings.
“I couldn’t focus in class this morning,” the junior right-hander said.
Keeling, who transferred from Hope Christian during the offseason, pitched a complete-game six-hitter for the Sartans on Tuesday, and St. Pius broke a 2-2 tie with five runs in the sixth in a 7-3 District 5-4A victory over the visiting Chargers.
“I thought it was a blast,” said Keeling (4-2), who threw about 120 pitches, an incredible workload at this level, and had his arm heavily packed with ice after the game. “It was one of the most fun games I’ve ever played in.”
St. Pius (12-6 overall) improved to 4-0 in district and possesses a two-game bulge over the Chargers (9-9, 2-2).
To win the district championship, Academy will just about have to sweep its remaining five games, including a season-ending doubleheader with the Sartans on May 4.
“We needed that win to give us momentum to finish off the district,” St. Pius coach Marc Hilton said.
Keeling outpitched Academy’s ace, Oklahoma State-bound Tyler Buffett. The Sartans were in a 2-2 game when they broke it open in the sixth.
Jared Lujan delivered the key hit. He was swinging a bat, Hilton said, only because one of St. Pius’ regulars, Kyle Piersol, was battling strep throat and missed the game.
Lujan, the Sartans’ No. 9 hitter, chopped a single into left field, plating two runs off Buffett. That made it 4-2.
“That was huge,” said St. Pius outfielder Cody Bower, who went 3-for-4 with two RBIs. “He stepped up, and we just rallied around that.”
St. Pius would add three more runs before the at-bat was over.
And the Sartans would need them. Academy had the tying run at the plate in the top of the seventh in Colby Brown, but Keeling struck him out on a curveball to end the game.
Bower is scheduled to sign his National Letter of Intent with New Mexico on Thursday.
“Today was a big team win,” Bower said.
CLEVELAND 14, RIO RANCHO 5: At Rio Rancho, the Storm — one of 5A’s most unpredictable teams — put together a season-high 23 hits as it beat the Rams in District 1-5A.
Seven of nine starters had multiple-hit games for Cleveland (11-10, 1-3 in 1-5A).
Rio Rancho (15-6, 2-2) fell from a first-place tie with Volcano Vista in district.
The Storm went ahead for good with five runs in the fourth inning and never looked back.
Scott Ostrowsky pitched four innings of superb relief for Cleveland to earn the victory.
VOLCANO VISTA 7, CIBOLA 3: At Volcano Vista, the Hawks scored all their runs in the first two innings and moved into sole first place in 1-5A. Volcano Vista (12-7, 3-1 in 1-5A) scored five times in the second inning, with Dylan Dudley’s two-RBI single the key blow.
Cody Trujillo took a no-hitter into the fifth for the Hawks.
Volcano Vista’s final five games are on the road, starting with a doubleheader at Cleveland on Saturday.
The Cougars are 10-9 and 2-2.
— This article appeared on page D2 of the Albuquerque Journal