Vascon Smith couldn’t hit this high pitch Monday afternoon. He had an RBI triple in the first inning, and grounded out in this at-bat in the third inning. (Herron photo)
For the second game in a row, the temperature at the time of the first pitch was 46 degrees, but this time the weather won.
On March 18, it had been cold and windy, but the host Rio Rancho Rams defeated Volcano Vista 6-4 to advance to the APS metro Championship Game two days later, also at RRHS.
Again, it was 46 degrees – but the rain began pelting the players and field and Rams reliever Dylan Archuleta was having trouble with his footing on the mound, as his cleats became caked with mud.
The umpires called a halt to the game in the top of the fifth, after a lengthy delay, met with RRHS coach Ron Murphy and Bears head coach Gerard Pineda, deciding to resume play at a later date – and with both teams in three-day tournaments this week (March 23-25), and the Bears then in Arizona, this year’s APS Metro champ won’t be known for a while.
Before the weather got nastier
La Cueva, which lost to the Rams 7-0 on Feb. 28 at RRHS, got hits from its first three batters of the game and jumped out to a 2-0 lead against lefty Jason Parker, who struck out the side.
No problem: The Rams sent 10 batters to the plate in their half of the first inning and scored six times on as many hits. Dean Ellison smacked a two-run single and catcher Josh Boyer capped the outburst with a two-run homer.
The Bears scored once in the second, making it a 6-3 Rams lead.
The Rams seemed poised to put the game out of reach when they sent 11 hitters up in the fourth, again managing six runs, but this time on only three hits along with a pair of LCHS errors.
Sean Vigil’s three-run triple provided half of those runs, with Ellison hit by a pitch with the bases loaded one batter earlier for his third RBI of the game.
Archuleta came on in the third and struck out two batters to keep the Bears off the scoreboard, then struck out the side in the fourth.
In the fifth, having trouble with his delivery because of the muddy mound, he walked two of the first three batters he faced, gave up a single to load the bases, and then walked in a run before hitting a batter to send another runner home.
That cut the Rams’ lead to 12-5 and led the game to be suspended.
“I wish we were resuming it tomorrow,” Murphy said in his office after the game was called. “I hate delaying this any longer than we have to.”
The weather wasn’t any nicer Tuesday, and Murphy said the outcome with the Bears could affect seeding for the state tournament in May, as the Bears and Rams are often among the final four.
In fact, La Cueva has won 11 of the dozen state championship games it has appeared in in this century; the Rams have won three of the five title games they’ve been in.
“This game’s more important to me than my tournament right now,” he said. “Us and La Cueva are always battling for the top seed.
“(This game) went too long as it was,” Murphy added. “It should have stopped a long time before that. We had two kids hit in the head, and we had a bat fly into a dugout.”
Murphy said he would have preferred that the Metro semifinal games had been played Saturday, such as at 11 a.m., and then the championship game played a few hours later.
But APS oversees the tournament, he noted, so any decisions about that are up to APS Athletic Director Adrian Ortega.
The Metro’s third-place game, Volcano Vista at Cleveland, didn’t even start on Monday, as a previously scheduled junior varsity game delayed the tentative start to 6 p.m.
Rio Rancho Sal Puentes Tournament
The top half of this week’s annual Sal Puentes event – in memory of the late Rams basketball and baseball standout – has Carlsbad and Cleveland meeting Thursday at 1:30, with Artesia and Sandia squaring off at 4.
The bottom half of the bracket has Valley meeting Albuquerque Academy kicking off the tournament at 11 a.m., with the host Rams meeting Goddard at 6:30 p.m.
On Friday, the top half of the bracket’s losers meet at 11 a.m., followed by the bottom half’s losers at 1:30.
The top half winners meet at 4, followed by the bottom half winners at 6:30.
The seventh-place game is Saturday at 10 a.m. on the junior varsity field; the fifth-place game is at 10 a.m. The third-place game starts at 12:30 p.m., and the championship game begins at 3 p.m.
Heading into the middle of the week, it’s possible the inclement weather may have a say in game times.
The Rams won their own tournament in 2002, ’06, ’08, ’09, ’14, ’19 and last season, when they beat Cleveland in the championship game. The event became the Sal Puentes tournament in 2008.