RIO RANCHO — East Mountain avenged an early-season loss to Santa Fe Indian School as the Timberwolves advanced to the program’s second-ever state championship game on Friday night at Rio Rancho High School.
Tristen Nemitz’s bloop single to right field scored Trace Krueger with the winning run, giving the fifth-seeded Timberwolves a 7-6 win over the Braves in the Class 3A semifinals.
No. 5 seed East Mountain (19-7) clashes with No. 3 New Mexico Military Institute in the championship game Saturday at 4 p.m. at Santa Ana Star Field. The third-seeded Broncos beat seventh-seeded Raton, 11-9, in Friday’s late semifinal.
The Timberwolves’ state tournament history is not long and distinguished, but there is a direct link between their only state title in 2012 and this year’s club.
“It was a lot of heart from every single one of the players,” said East Mountain coach Ray Demarest, who pitched on the 2012 state championship team. “It’s certainly more stressful watching from the dugout. It’s an anxiety attack waiting to happen.”
Earlier this season, Santa Fe Indian School overcame an early deficit to defeat East Mountain, 11-9.
That template was nearly matched again.
Trace Krueger delivered a key RBI base hit in the Timberwolves’ three-run first, and the lead stood at 4-2 heading to the top of the fifth.
The Braves, much as in their early win over East Mountain, chipped away, eventually taking the lead in the fifth.
Base hits by Kyle Suina and Owen Pecos, combined with an error, a wild pitch and a base on balls by East Mountain led to a three-run frame and a 5-4 SFIS lead.
East Mountain quickly responded. After a single from Garrett Darner, Krueger launched a two-run homer to left-center for a 6-5 Timberwolves lead.
“The first pitch (the SFIS pitcher) threw was a change-up, and I kind of rolled over on it,” Krueger said. “I knew he was probably going to come back with a fastball. I got lucky and got a good piece of it.”
Santa Fe Indian School (17-13) tied the game with a run in the top of the seventh. But East Mountain summoned more resolve to walk off with the win.
“These kids are playing with a lot of momentum right now, and lot of things are going our way,” Demarest said.
CLASS 2A: No. 1 Eunice and No. 3 Capitan won semifinal games Friday at Rio Rancho and will play at 1 p.m. Saturday at Santa Ana Star Field for the 2A title.
The top-seeded Cardinals edged fourth-seeded Tularosa 10-9, scoring four runs in the bottom of the sixth to come from behind.
Capitan scored four runs in the eighth inning, including a key double from Dylan Herring, as the Tigers beat No. 2 Rehoboth Christian 6-2.
CLASS 1A: No. 1 Gateway Christian, which routed No. 4 Mesilla Valley 11-1, and No. 2 Logan, a 10-6 winner over third-seeded Melrose, won their semifinal games Friday. They’ll meet at 10 a.m. in the final on Saturday at Santa Ana Star Field.