Class 4A baseball: St. Pius, Academy to play for championship - Albuquerque Journal

Class 4A baseball: St. Pius, Academy to play for championship

According to Sartans coach Matt McCoy, there’s just something about the tension of the late innings that brings out the best in St. Pius.

Such was the case in the Class 4A semifinals on Friday, when the second-seeded Sartans blew a two-run lead in the top of the seventh against No. 3 Los Alamos before a two-out infield single from sophomore Ben Martinez drove home the game-winning run for a walk-off 7-6 victory at Santa Ana Star Field. The Sartans advance to Saturday’s championship game there at 7 p.m. against rival Albuquerque Academy, which nipped Aztec 4-3 in Friday’s late final.

“The good thing is we’ve been in games like that all year long,” McCoy said. “That’s them. I don’t know if they’re like cardiac kids or whatever you call them. They decide when they want to turn it on.”

In a game full of momentum shifts, St. Pius (22-4) seemingly struck the decisive blow when starting pitcher Nick Rodriguez capped off a four-run sixth with a two-RBI double for a 6-4 advantage over the Hilltoppers (21-8) heading into the final inning. However, Los Alamos scratched out a pair of runs to tie it at 6 and set the stage for the latest Sartans heroics.

It initially looked as though St. Pius would have an easy rally, as it loaded the bases with nobody out. However, back-to-back squeeze attempts failed, which brought up Martinez for his first plate appearance of the game. He had the opportunity only because starting shortstop Jordan Rodriguez left the game when he was unable to continue battling through a wrist injury sustained at a recent practice. Martinez was more than ready for the opportunity.

“I don’t expect to sit the bench the whole game. I expect to make a difference in the game,” he said. “That’s what I wanted to do.”

Martinez hit a grounder to deep short, which forced Los Alamos shortstop Taylor Drake to make a backhand play with his glove and a difficult throw. It couldn’t beat Martinez, which allowed Malachi Peña to score.

“He’s hustle all the way,” McCoy said of Martinez.

“I saw the (shortstop) going for the backhand, and the only thing I can do at that point is run my ass off,” Martinez said. “So I did.”

NO. 2 ST. PIUS 7, NO. 3 LOS ALAMOS 6

Los Alamos 000 310 2—6 6 1

St. Pius 002 040 1—7 14 1

Pitching: LA, Diego Rodriguez, Grant Watkins (4) and Carson Dickson; SP, Nick Rodriguez, Jake Sena (6) and JoFrank Ortiz. Leading hitters: LA, Grant Watkins 2-4, R, RBI, BB; Charles Steinkamp 1-4, 3B, R, 2RBI; SP, Lucas Martinez 3-4, 2R; Gene Trujillo 2-3, 3B, 2B, RBI; Malachi Peña 2-4, RBI, 2R; Nick Rodriguez 2-3, 2B, 2RBI. Records: SP 22-4, LA 21-8.

NO. 1 ABQ. ACADEMY 4, NO. 5 AZTEC 3: For the second consecutive postseason game, the Chargers spotted their opponent an early lead, then rallied behind timely hitting and a starting pitcher that grew stronger with each inning.

Aztec raced out to a 3-0 first-inning lead in Friday’s Class 4A semifinal behind four consecutive hits off Academy starter Andrew Harrod, including a two-run double from Elijah Wyatt. The Tigers had just three more hits thereafter. In the quarterfinals, the Chargers fell behind Valley 2-0 early before pulling away for a 4-2 victory.

“It kind of played out just like (Thursday),” Academy coach Chris Alexander said. “We never want to give up three runs in the first and get behind. But after that, Andrew Herrod was amazing on the mound. They didn’t have very many threats after that. He just did a great job.”

Academy (26-4) patiently chipped away at the deficit, plating single runs in the third and fourth before a Dominic Baca single brought home both Henry Mitchell and Devan Johnson for a 4-3 lead in the fifth frame.

“As has been the case for us this season and last, we were able to scratch a few runs together and get on top,” Alexander said.

Harrod did some of his finest work down the stretch, holding Aztec hitless over the final three innings. He finished with 10 strikeouts — twice punching out the side — while going the distance.

“It’s a very rough way to start. No one wants to do that at the beginning,” Harrod admitted. “…You get a lot more comfortable as the game goes on.”

The Chargers victory sets up a showdown with rival St. Pius, who beat them 5-4 in a regular season matchup. Academy, meanwhile, claimed a blue trophy as a six seed last season with an 8-7 triumph against No. 1 St. Pius in the Class 4A championship. In short, there’s plenty of motivation on both sides.

“I wouldn’t want it any other way,” Alexander said. “We’ve had some great games with Pius. This year was a great game, it was a one run game in extra innings. They got us. We’d like to get them back, obviously. It’s the way it’s supposed to be.”

NO. 1 ABQ ACADEMY 4, NO. 5 AZTEC 3

Aztec 300 000 0 — 3 7 1

Academy 001 120 x—4 8 1

Leading Hitters: Az, Elijah Wyatt 1-3, 2B, 2RBI; Kaleb Thornburg 2-3, RBI; Kale Watson 2-3, 2B; AA, Devan Johnson 2-3, 2B, 2R; Dominic Baca 3-3, 2B, 2RBI. Pitching: Az, Brandon Arellano, Wyatt (5) and Wyatt, Thornburg (5) ; AA, Andrew Harrod and Satish Raichur. Rec.: AA 26-4, Az 22-9.

 

2022 NMAA Baseball Championships 4A

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