RIO RANCHO — It only took Rio Rancho less than 15 minutes to finish what it started.
The No. 1 seed in the Albuquerque Metro Baseball Championships closed out back-to-back titles on Thursday afternoon, scoring three quick runs in the bottom of the fifth inning, and that completed a convincing 15-5 victory for the Rams over No. 2 seed La Cueva.
“I cannot be more happy,” Rio Rancho coach Ron Murphy said. “More than anything else, it’s just how hard they’re playing. The intensity — you can hear the dugout — (and) the chatter. The way they’re giving interviews, talking about team and that we’re family and that we’re bonded.
“As coaches, all we can do is sit back and enjoy it.”
Rio Rancho (15-1-2), the top-ranked team in Class 5A, has won 13 straight games.
It is unbeaten since it got back from El Paso, where it went 2-1-2 to open the year.
The metro final had begun March 20, but was stopped in the top of the fifth in the midst of a persistent rain, with Rio Rancho leading La Cueva 12-5 in the top of the fifth.
But, the Bears (10-4) were threatening, with the bases loaded with one out.
Whatever threat La Cueva had, however, was extinguished quickly by Rio Rancho reliever Dylan Archuleta when the game resumed, as the right-hander struck out the bottom two batters in the Bears lineup on called strikes.
“The main message was, let’s go out … and get that first batter,” Murphy said.
The teams played 58 minutes on March 20 before the game was suspended. Rio Rancho required just 14 minutes Thursday to 10-run the Bears 10 days later.
In the bottom half of the fifth, Casen Savage and Niko Alcala drew opening walks, and Kai Fitak’s sacrifice bunt attempt turned into an infield single to load the bases.
Freshman Dean Ellison, hitting in the 4 hole for the Rams, slapped an opposite-field double down the left-field line to clear the bases, ending the game.
“We came out with the mindset, Archie (Archuleta) would come in and dominate, and he did,” said Ellison, who finished 2-for-3 with six RBIs. “(La Cueva) is a good team, but we come out on top every time we play them this year, and we’re happy about that.”
Rio Rancho beat La Cueva 7-0 in the Bears’ season opener, although that was the Rams’ sixth game.
And an early lineup change has paid dividends for Murphy’s team. Senior second baseman Vascon Smith, who has signed with the Lobos, was batting fourth and Ellison fifth. Murphy switched them a few weeks ago, and said both have flourished since. Ellison had a two-run single in the first inning and scored another run when he was hit by a pitch in the fourth.
Rio Rancho led 6-2 after one inning as catcher Josh Boyer swatted a two-run home run,. which is part of a theme since the Rams have been probably Class 5A’s fastest-starting team.
“We just like to get out there off the jump,” said Smith. “The way Rio Rancho does it. It’s a mind game, too. Score a bunch of runs in the first inning gets the other team down a little bit.”
The Rams added six more in the fourth, highlighted by Sean Vigil’s two-RBI triple, for a commanding 12-3 edge.
RIO RANCHO 15, LA CUEVA 5 (5 innings)
La Cueva 210 02 — 5 8 4
Rio Rancho 600 63 — 15 11 0
Batteries: LC, Braiden Reynolds, Matthew Hoggin (4) and Luke Reiter. RR, Jason Parker, Dylan Archuleta (3) and Josh Boyer. Win: Archuleta. Loss: Reynolds. Leading hitters: LC, Jackson Hix 2-3, RBI. RR, Dean Ellison 2-3, 2B, 6RBIs; Boyer 2-3, HR, 2RBIs. Records: RR 15-1-2; LC 10-4.