The new Jennifer Riordan Spark Kindness Sports Complex is north of Nusenda Community Stadium, and on the west side of Arroyo Vista Boulevard. (Herron photo)
Rio Rancho High School senior catcher Josh Boyer made sure no third game was needed to decide if visiting Hobbs or his Rams were advancing into the Class 5A state quarterfinals this week.
Boyer led off the bottom of the seventh inning and smoked a “no-doubter” over the left field fence, giving the No. 1 Rams (24—2-2) a 6-5 victory over the No. 16 Eagles (10-18), giving RRHS the series, two games to none.
The Rams face No. 9 Rio Grande (20-9), which needed three games in Las Cruces last week to eliminate the No. 8 Bulldawgs, at 1 p.m. Thursday, May 11, at the Jennifer Riordan Kindness Sports Complex in northwest Albuquerque. The Rams and Ravens did not meet this season.
On Saturday morning, the Eagles and Rams were tied at 1 after four innings, but Hobbs rallied for four runs – three unearned – to take a brief 5-1 lead.
Starter Kai Fitak had struck out six and allowed only two hits, but was relieved by Dylan Archuleta after hitting the Eagles’ first batter in the fifth.
A throwing error by Archuleta and an error by second baseman Vascon Smith paved the way for the Hobbs rally, which included another hit batter and zero hits.
The Rams stormed back with four tuns of their own in the bottom of the fifth.
With two down, Hobbs southpaw starter Mekhi Brewer walked the bases loaded, then gave up a two-run double to Boyer.
“Our goal, toward the end, was taking a lot of pitches,” RRHS coach Ron Murphy said, with the intent of tiring Brewer. “Try to get the pitch count up, get him out of the game. We had strict rules: We’re taking a pitch every at-bat till we get a strike. … We didn’t give up – that’s the main thing.”
Luke Parrish replaced Brewer on the hill and was greeted by a two-run single by Dylan Tinker, tying the game at 5.
Archuleta retired the Eagles in order in the sixth, and another reliever, Cole Savage – moving from center field – did likewise in the seventh, setting the stage to be the winning pitcher on batterymate Boyer’s round-tripper.
Boyer led the offense with three hits and as many RBIs in his final home game.
“Just seein’ it well,” Boyer said after his big game. “I was kinda worried for a, little bit there, but I knew our sticks would come through.”
The sticks also came through Friday night in Game 1.
Rio Rancho 7, Hobbs 1: Rams ace Seth Lee (5-0) and Ryan Lewis, combined on a five-hitter, with the Eagles’ lone run unearned. Lee pitched the first five innings.
The Rams scored two unearned runs of their own in the first inning, and basically put the game out of reach with a three-run third, when Smith hit a solo homer.
Niko Alcala went 3 for 3, with a pair of triples and driving in the second and final run for the Rams in the fourth. Smith and Savage each added a pair of hits in the easy win.
The Rams, who also beat Hobbs 14-4 on March 11 in a Las Cruces tournament, were 12-1 at home this season, that 3-2 loss to Volcano Vista on Senior Day the lone blemish. Going back to the 2022 season, the Rams have won 14 of their last 15 home games.
Extra innings: Other first round games Thursday are No. 3 Carlsbad (23-5) vs. No. 6 Centennial (15-13) at 10 a.m.; No. 2 La Cueva (23-4) vs. No. 7 Sandia (19-9) at 4 p.m.; and No. 4 Volcano Vista (21-6) vs. No. 12 Piedra Vista (17-12) at 7 p.m. The Rams-Ravens winner meets the VVHS-PVHS winner Friday at 4 p.m., also at the Riordan complex.
… Saturday’s 5A championship game is slated for noon at Santa Ana Star Field, aka Lobo Field, south of The Pit.