Rams coach Ron Murphy, far right, watches catcher Josh Boyer slap a double in the bottom of the seventh inning Friday. Boyer came around to score, but nobody else did in the 3-2 loss to Volcano Vista. (Herron photo)
The 20-game winning streak and the 12-game home field winning streak ended the afternoon of April 28, but not the Rio Rancho High School baseball team’s drive to nab the top seed for the Class 5A state tournament, which gets underway at eight locations around the state.
The No. 1 Rams (22-2-2) will start their best of three series with No. 16 Hobbs (10-16) Friday at 4 p.m. on the Rams’ diamond. Game 2 is slated for 10 a.m. Saturday, with the “if necessary” third game following that.
Volcano Vista 3, Rio Rancho 2: Hawks ace Regan Hall, headed to play next season at the University of Illinois, was in fine form on a nice spring Senior Day afternoon at RRHS.
The Hawks scored a run off Seth Lee in the second inning, and the Rams matched it with a run of their own in the fourth.
Dean Eillison drew a walk off Hall and Vascon Smith’s single sent him to second. Sean Vigil’s sacrifice moved both up a base, and designated-hitter Dylan Archuleta walked to load the bases.
Josh Boyer hit a slow chopper to second and everyone was safe, with the score knotted at 1.
Dylan Tinker struck out and Casen Savage ended the rally by hitting into a fielder’s choice.
Ellison (0-1), making his second appearance of the season on the mound, retired the first batter he faced before running into trouble. He gave up a single and walked two batters, then got a fielder’s choice for the second out, but the bases were still loaded.
That’s when he made the mistake that kept the Rams from extending their streaks – for apparently no reason, he threw the ball to (Make that “Over the head of”) first baseman Alex Pacheco, and while Pacheco chased the ball, the Hawks raced around the bases, two of them scoring for a 3-1 lead.
Ellison then got the third out, but his stint on the bump was over. Savage pitched the final two frames, giving up one hit and fanning two.
It came down to the bottom of the seventh, with southpaw Hall still dealing.
Boyer led off with a double, Tinker fanned, and Savage flew out to center. Dominick Maese relieved Hall and Kai Fitak greeted him with an RBI single, giving the Rams the potential tying and winning runs on base.
But Maese got Pacheco top pop out in foul territory and the streaks were over.
The Hawks claimed second place, a game ahead of third place Cleveland. Cibola finished fourth and Atrisco Heritage Academy was last.
The Rams had only five hits in the loss; the Hawks had six. Boyer led the Rams with two hits.s
Rams coach Ron Murphy attributed “a miscommunication” to Ellison’s errant throw to first, with nobody threatening to steal in that situation.
After Murphy told his players they cost themselves the loss, he credited Hall for his six-plus innings.
“That kid is amazing. He’s a great pitcher,” Murphy said. “They never hide him; he throws against every good team.
“I give Regan a lot of credit and the while Volcano team and coach (Todd) Flores. They deserved that. They came out here to win, we came out here to win. They played better than us today,” he added. “They were mistake free and we weren’t and it hurt us.
“I’m hoping this helps us in the long run.”
Other first-round series starting Friday are No. 15 Mayfield (13-13) at No 2 La Cueva (21-4); No, 14 Cibola (11-13) at No. 3 Carlsbad (21-5); No. 13 Organ Mountain (15-11) at No. 4 Volcano Vista (19-6); No. 12 Piedra Vista (15-11) at No. 5 Cleveland (18-7); No. 11 Farmington (13-12) at No. 6 Centennial (22-4); No. 10 Los Lunas (16-9) at No. 7 Sandia (17-9); and No. 9 Rio Grande (18-8) at No. 8 Las Cruces (18-7).
If the Rams beat the Eagles, they’ll meet the winner of the Rio Grande-Las Cruces series next Thursday in a quarterfinal contest.
Rio Rancho 12, Cleveland 5: Archuleta almost had fewer words than RBIs in a postgame interview the evening of April 25.
His Rams had just battled back from a 5-3 deficit after five innings to tie the game at 5 in the sixth and send their second rivalry game of the season at Cleveland High into extra innings.
In the decisive eighth inning, the Rams sent 10 batters to the plate and scored seven runs, turning a nail-biter into a rout.
All Archuleta (5-0) had done in that impressive triumph was pitch 4 2/3 innings in relief of starter Fitak, striking out 10 Storm batters on Senior Night and allowing only one run. He also whacked a three-run homer in the eighth to close out the scoring.
“I was looking for a fastball,” he said of his shot over the fence in right field, a ball that was helped to some extent by the wind.
“I was feeling good,” the junior said. “It was fun; (there was) a lot of adrenaline. I was talking smack.”
The Storm, who’d led 3-2 after three innings and 5-3 after five frames, dodged a couple of bullets late in the game. The Rams left the bases loaded in the sixth and had runners at the corners in the seventh with one out, which ended when Boyer hit into a double play.
Archuleta effectively slammed the door on the Storm after he came to the mound in the fourth.
After he allowed a run in the fifth on a walk to CHS starting pitcher Austin Barela – his third free pass in his first three plate appearances – he surrendered an RBI-double to Anthony Del Angel, a freshman phenom of sorts in the game, who drove in the Storm’s run in the first and doubled home three in the third, finishing with all five of his team’s RBIs and two “web gems” in right field.
Archuleta walked Brandon Hennessy leading off the bottom of the sixth and again in the eighth, who didn’t get as far as second base.
Here’s how the top of the eighth played out, with reliever Joseph Stevenson pitching, after coming on to start the seventh:
- Tinker hit a soft popup to third baseman Gabe Nelson, and the ball popped out of his glove for an error.
- Savage and Niko Alcala followed with bunt singles.
- Fitak drew a bases-loaded walk to force Savage home and break the tie.
- Pinch-hitter Nick Di Gregorio slapped a two-run single to center.
- Smith, who doubled home two runs in the first, hit a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Fitak.
- Vigil walked.
- Archuleta hit the second pitch he saw from reliever Silas Hilton, the fourth CHS pitcher of the game, for a three-run bomb.
- Boyer flew out for the second out and then Tinker flew out to end the uprising.
Although the Nelson error set the tone for the Rams, the back-to-back bunt singles –when the Rams would have settled for a sacrifice or two – were bigger keys.
“We talk all the time about doing the little things,” Murphy said. “Sometimes, when the big things aren’t working, we do the little things and the big things start working. … They say you’ve got to make your own breaks and that’s what we did.
“So, I mean, you just don’t know. Cleveland played a hell of a game,” he added.
By game’s end, Fitak and Archuleta had combined on a four-hitter, with three of those by Del Angel plus a double by Chase Tyler; the two also combined for 15 punchouts.
Smith and Vigil led the Rams’ 10-hit attack with two hits apiece.
Cleveland 15, Atrisco Heritage Academy 4: Headed into their afternoon game in the South Valley Friday afternoon, the Storm needed a win with a Volcano Vista loss to finish tied for second place in the district.
Half of that happened: The Storm routed the Jaguars, but Volcano Vista upset the host Rams, finishing second ahead of the Storm.
Cleveland opens its first-round series Friday evening at 6 vs. Piedra Vista. Game 2 is slated for 10 a.m. Saturday, followed – if needed – by a decisive third game.
Extra innings: This is the 11th district title for the Rams, who also topped the district in 2001, 2006-10, 2014-16 and ’21. It’s also the Rams’ 15th 20-win season, which the team has done – excepting the pandemic-shortened 2020 season — four seasons in a row and ninth time in the past 10 seasons.
… The four quarterfinal games will be played on field 1 of the Albuquerque Regional Sports Complex at 10 a.m., and 1, 4 and 7 p.m. on May 11. The semifinals will be played at the ARSC as well on the 12th, at 4 p.m. The championship game is still set for noon at Santa Ana Star Field (formerly called Lobo Field) on the 13th.
… State tournament ticket prices are $10 for adults; $5 for senior citizens, members of the military and students in grades K-12. Tickets are available only online (http://gofan.co/app/school/NMAA). Ticket prices do not include transaction fees.