The upstart Bulldawgs, playing the part of a severely undervalued No. 15 seed, were four outs from completing one of the most unlikely first-round upsets in state tournament history.
Down 4-2 in Saturday’s first game, No. 2 seed Eldorado scored five runs in the bottom of the sixth and pulled out a 7-5 victory to even this first round best-of-three series at a game apiece.
In the third and deciding game of the series, the Eagles (21-6) – with the help of two Bulldawg errors – scored four runs in the fifth inning to take the lead for good, and Eldorado eventually eliminated Las Cruces with an 8-4 victory.
“I think it says a lot about the character of our kids,” said Eldorado coach Jim Johns. “The kids showed up today with a lot of energy and passion.”
It wouldn’t have been hard to blame them if they arrived Saturday morning still in a daze from losing the series opener Friday, when the Bulldawgs (14-15) scored five in the seventh to pull out a 10-7 victory.
“They’re a real rah-rah team, and we don’t do very well under pressure like that,” said Eldorado’s Austin Treadwell, who hit a three-run home run in the sixth inning of Saturday’s second game to give the Eagles a much-needed 8-3 cushion.
Eldorado advances to Thursday’s quarterfinals (4 p.m., Isotopes Park) against No. 7 Cleveland. Johns earned his 500th career win earlier this season against the Storm.
The Bulldawgs pushed back against Eldorado for just about every one of the 21 innings this weekend.
“Their chatter started to affect us,” said the Eagles’ Andrew Stubbs. “But today our goal was just to have fun and stay loose.”
Stubbs played a key role in both games. He hit a solo home run in the second game, but it was his RBI double in the sixth inning of Saturday’s first game that sparked a five-run outburst, all with two outs.
Las Cruces led 4-2 to start the bottom of the sixth, but Bulldawg pitchers issued four walks in that one inning, including two with the bases loaded. The next two batters, pinch hitter Micah Sanchez and Tanner Roberts, delivered RBI singles for a 7-4 lead.
And Eldorado’s season was saved.
- All of the top eight seeds in the Class 5A bracket advanced to the quarterfinals.
No. 1 La Cueva (23-3) ripped No. 16 Cibola 14-1 on Saturday to complete a series sweep. Austin Bell and Caleb McAlister drove in three runs apiece for the Bears.
No. 3 Rio Rancho (20-8) recorded its third consecutive shutout, beating Manzano 3-0 behind six strong innings of four-hit ball from Grant Templin. The Rams blanked the 14th-seeded Monarchs in both games, and Templin no-hit Cleveland in the regular-season finale.
No. 5 Volcano Vista (19-7) ousted No. 12 Oñate with an 11-3 victory Saturday as the Hawks won that series 2-0. And No. 7 Cleveland (19-9) blew a 6-0 lead, but rebounded to eliminate No. 10 Gadsden with a 13-9 win. Cleveland scored four in the fifth to break a 7-7 tie. Justice Jackson’s RBI single was the go-ahead hit for the Storm.
Also moving on were fourth-seeded Carlsbad, which swept Alamogordo; sixth-seeded Mayfield, which won both games against Rio Grande (14-2 and 6-1); and No. 8 Hobbs which swept ninth-seeded Valley, including 7-4 on Saturday.
Fifth-seeded Albuquerque Academy (18-10) took two from No. 12 Artesia on Saturday, 10-0 and 8-5, to win that series 2-1. Zeke Long tossed a three-hitter in the opener for the Chargers, and Cal Clatanoff drove in three runs in the deciding game.
St. Pius (18-8), the No. 3 seed, beat Belen 5-4 on Saturday to close out the Eagles.
No. 2 Sandia Prep (22-6) cruised into the quarterfinals, pounding Hot Springs 11-1 on Saturday. Jeromy Spratte had four RBIs for the Sundevils, who won Friday’s opener 21-1.
Fourth-seeded Hope Christian rolled (20-8) past Pojoaque Valley 10-0 as Keenan Dodd fired a three-hitter.