Softball: For first time in 21 years, no metro teams make Championship Saturday - Albuquerque Journal

Softball: For first time in 21 years, no metro teams make Championship Saturday

Carlsbad junior pitcher Haiven Schoolcraft (11) pitches in her team’s winner’s bracket victory over Alamogordo. (Chancey Bush/Journal)

RIO RANCHO – There seems to be one constant when it comes to high school sports in New Mexico. Since 2001 – before any of this year’s high school athletes were even born – there has always been at least one Metro-area team playing for a state softball title on Championship Saturday.

But the seasonal spring winds brought more than just infield dust and smoke from the fires still raging in the north to Cleveland High on Friday afternoon.

There was also change in the air.

Centennial, a past Class 5A title winner from Las Cruces, and 4A juggernaut Artesia, each eliminated the La Cueva Bears and Valley Vikings – the Metro area’s final two representatives this years.

“The south came up here and really represented well this year. They did,” said La Cueva head coach Ron Romero after his No. 4-seeded Bears were eliminated by Centennial. “But I’m proud of my team and proud of how we represented out district and the city.”

Alamogordo junior Rainn Daily (22) is safe sliding into second base as Carlsbad junior senior Grace Aragon (5) attempts to tag her out. (Chancey Bush/ Albuquerque Journal)

CLASS 5A: Down 10-0 in what could have been the decisive fifth inning, the Bears tacked on five runs, including a pinch-hit three-run blast over the center-field wall by senior Hannah Campos, but the rally wasn’t enough in a 10-7 loss to Centennial, bringing the season to an end for La Cueva (20-8).

For La Cueva senior Ashlyn Zapach, Friday’s game seemed to mirror the team’s season.

“We started out rough – we had a losing record early in the season and I didn’t think then we’d ever get this far,” said Zapach, referring to La Cueva’s 4-6 start. “But then we started coming together in late March and today, we really started coming together later in the game and we had a chance at the end.”

The Bears left 13 runners on base and did bring up the potential winning run with the bases loaded in the seventh before Centennial ace Caprice Barela, who struck out seven, got the final out.

Centennial later beat No. 9 Piedra Vista, 2-0, and then No. 3 Alamogordo, 12-10, to win four consecutive elimination games (three of them on Friday) to set up Saturday’s Class 5A championship series with No. 1 Carlsbad at 5 p.m. at the UNM Softball Field.

CLASS 4A: Seeded ninth, Valley already had one of the this year’s tournament week upsets of the year with their 4-0 win over three-time defending champion and top-seeded Artesia on Thursday.

Nevertheless, Valley found itself back in the consolation bracket on Friday, needing three consecutive wins – and another upset of Artesia – to get to championship Saturday.

The day started well enough with a quick 12-0 Friday morning win in five innings over No. 7 Aztec thanks in part to a fifth-inning solo home run by senior Mari Baca for the 10-run lead. The Vikings (17-12) added two more insurance runs before setting up the Artesia rematch.

But this time, the Bulldogs, led by Baylor-bound RyLee Crandall, cruised to a 9-2 win.

“This game was disappointing, but not this season,” said Valley coach Oscar Medrano. “We’re peaking at the right time, and I’m so proud of this team. But it’s so hard on days like this with so many games to win without the type of depth these other teams have. But we’re young and if I can get the numbers up, I think we can be good next year.”

Friday evening, Artesia’s reign as state champion since 2018 came to an end, losing 17-15 in an elimination game to No. 4 Lovington.

The Wildcats now take on No. 2 Gallup at UNM at 3 p.m. with an if-necessary game to follow the 5A Game 1, which is set for 5 p.m.

CLASS 3A: At UNM, top-seeded Robertson won its first softball title defeating No. 3 Santa Fe Indian School 8-1 and rolling through four playoff wins 41-6.

Robertson (25-4) had just one 3A loss this season – 10-8 at Cobre in the March 18 season opener. SFIS finishes 20-12 on the season.

CLASS 1A/2A: At UNM, No. 1 Loving handled No. 2 Tularosa 8-2 and completed a dominant 2022 by beating the same program that beat them for a championship last year. For Loving (23-5), the championship is No. 18 in softball and title game appearance No. 28. The Falcons outscored opponents in four playoff games 41-8, with Tularosa (21-5) scoring all eight runs – six in Thursday’s winner’s bracket semifinal and two on Friday.

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