Albuquerque Academy pitcher Alex Gaeto holds himself to some pretty high standards.
But even when he falls a little short of his own expectations, it seems to work out pretty well for the Chargers. Such was the case Thursday night, when Gaeto shook off some early adversity to pitch a gem. He struck out 15 to lead top-seeded Academy (25-4) to a 4-2 victory over Valley (17-12) in the Class 4A quarterfinals at Rio Rancho High. Academy plays Aztec Friday at Santa Ana Star Field at 7 p.m. in the semifinals.
Gaeto surrendered a leadoff single to Jaycob Kelly on the game’s first pitch and a two-run homer to Ricky Henderson in the second inning, but didn’t yield a hit the rest of the way. He retired the last 13 Vikings hitters in order, including a strikeout of Henderson for the game’s next-to-last out.
“My goal every game before I step out is to be perfect,” Gaeto said. “First pitch of the game, that’s tough to give up a base hit. After the home run my mindset was ‘OK, I’m gonna be perfect from here.’ We took the lead in the bottom of the second, and my mindset was, ‘If I’m perfect the rest of the game, we win.'”
Henderson’s homer, a no-doubt blast over the left field wall that ignited the Valley dugout, could have been deflating for the defending state champs. Instead, they fired back immediately. In the bottom of the second frame, Henry Mitchell singled and Gaeto doubled to put runners on second and third. Catcher Satish Raichur drove both of his teammates home with a single, and he scored two batters later thanks to base hit from Andrew Harrod.
Just like that, the Chargers were up 3-2. Dominic Baca blasted a double off the wall to drive home Mitchell in the third to provide the final margin.
Academy coach Chris Alexander was confident his squad would bounce back.
“We have a lot of seniors, a lot of guys who were juniors last year when we played in the state championship,” he said. “We were down in that game. We were down a few other games this year. They just don’t give up. I’m never worried when we get down.
“I’m a little worried,” he corrected. “But I know we can come back.”
The Chargers improved to 3-0 on the season against Valley. Their second meeting, which Academy won 1-0 on a walkoff , was more indicative of how Alexander expected the playoff matchup to go. Their first game was a 14-2 Chargers triumph.
“(Caeden) Jojola for them is tough. He threw for them a couple weeks ago and held us to one run in seven innings. Mixes his fastball and off speed pretty well. We did enough, hit some balls hard,” Alexander said. “But when you got a guy like Gaeto on the mound, you just have to scratch a few out and you’ll be OK.”
— Tristen Critchfield
NO. 1 ABQ ACADEMY 4, NO. 8 VALLEY 2
Valley 020 000 0 — 2 2 0
Academy 031 000 x — 4 9 0
Batteries: V, Caeden Jojola and Daniel Candelaria. AA, Gaeto and Raichur. Leading Hitters: V, Ricky Henderson 1-3, HR, 2RBI, Jaycob Kelly 1-3, SB; AA, Henry Mitchell 2-2, 2R; Dominic Baca 1-3, 2B, RBI; Alex Gaeto 2-3, 2B, R; Satish Raichur 1-2, R, 2RBI. Rec: A 25-4, V 17-12.
MORE CLASS 4A: No. 2 St. Pius and No. 3 Los Alamos were other quarterfinal winners Thursday. The Sartans play the Hilltoppers at 10 a.m. Friday at UNM.
St. Pius (21-4) scored the final 10 runs in a 10-2 victory over No. 7 Artesia. The Hilltoppers (21-7) blanked No. 11 Miyamura, 8-0. Third baseman Grant Watkins hit a two-run, first-inning homer for Los Alamos.
Ryan Ray homered in a three-run fifth inning as Aztec (22-8) beat No. 4 Grants, 4-1.
CLASS 3A: At Cleveland, No. 8 Santa Fe Indian took down No. 1 St. Michael’s, 8-5. No. 5 East Mountain routed fourth-seeded Robertson, 16-2. No. 3 New Mexico Military Institute edged sixth-seeded Cobre, 6-3, and Raton surprised No. 2 Sandia Prep 4-3.
SFI S(17-12) scored six runs in the top of the first, and Marlo Gachupin had four RBIs, including a three-run triple.
East Mountain (18-7), sophomore Logan Aucker tossed a one-hitter. Cole Phillips was 3-for-3, including a pair of triples, with four runs and four RBIs. NMMI (21-6) scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth to come from behind.
NO. 7 RATON 4, No. 2 SANDIA PREP 3
Raton 030 010 0- -4 7 0
Sandia Prep 200 010 0- -3 9 1
Batteries: R, Dylan Quartieri, Matt Quartieri (6) and Trea Ortega; SP, Cameron Motola, Estevan Ortega (2), Santiago Cooper (5) and Chris Andrick. WP D. Quartieri. LP Motola.
Leading hitters: R, Ortega 2-4, 2 RBI; D. Quartieri 1-2; Middlebrook 1-3 R. SP, Cooper 2-4, R, RBI; Andrick 2-4 2 RBI, 2B; Scotty Charles 1-2 R, SB.
Records: R 11-13; SP 18-6.
No. 8 SANTA FE INDIAN SCHOOLS 8, No. 1 ST. MICHAEL’S 5
Santa Fe Indian School 602 000 0- -8 12 1
St. Michael’s 100 002 2- -5 10 1
Batteries: SFIS, Jace Trancosa, Jeremy Martinez (6) and Martinez, Kavin(CQ) Calabaza (6); SM, Rahul Williams, Elijah Sisneros (2) and CeeJay Saiz. WP Trancosa. LP Williams.
Leading hitters: SFIS, Martinerz 3-4, 2 RBI, R; Marlo Gachupin 2-4, 4 RBI, R, 2 3B; Kyle Suina 2-4, R, 2B. SM, Williams 2-5, RBI; Isaac Ruiz 2-2 2 RBI, R; Reyes Baros 2-4, SB.
Records: SFIS 17-12; SM 19-7
NO. 3 NEW MEXICO MILITARY INSTITUTE 4, NO. 6 COBRE 3
Cobre 010 050 1- -3 5 0
NMMI 100 003 X- -4 6 1
Batteries: C, Ismael Dominguez, Andres Tovar (5), Gavin Placencio (6), James Castañon (6) and Eric Harrington; N, Luis A. Patron, José Barcelo (2), Tegin Maloney (5) and Barcelo and Patron. WP Maloney. LP Tovar.
CLASS 2A: The top four seeds — Eunice, Rehoboth Christian, Capitan and Tularosa — won quarterfinals. The top-seeded Cardinals defeated No. 9-seeded Menaul/Oak Grove Classical Academy, 5-1, ending that program’s first postseason.