Out-hit 9-3, visiting Cleveland grinded out a 5-4 victory at Rio Rancho Tuesday evening and clinched the District 1-5A crown.
The teams combined for nine errors – five by the host Rams (21-4, 5-2) – and there was only one earned run scored. But the Rams left the bases loaded in the third and fifth innings, when first starter Austin Barela escaped a jam and reliever Logan Kinter – earning his second win in two days – got out of it.
“Five errors and how many men did we leave on base (10) this time?” frustrated Rams coach Ron Murphy said. “Five errors and (we) can’t hit with men on base isn’t going to win many games.”
The Rams then left two aboard in the seventh off the Storm’s third pitcher, Gavin Hoffman, who not only earned a save but stroked a two-run single in the three-run fifth that ended the scoring.
“They’re always so solid defensively,” coach Shane Shallenberger said of the Rams, after the Storm (15-9, 6-1) won district for the first time since 2017. “We got out of some jams, a couple defensive plays.”
DJ Sandoval and James Brevig had the Storm’s other hits.
Elijah Castañeda led the Rams with three hits, including lead-off doubles in the fifth and seventh but was left on third base when those innings ended. Ryan Casados had two hits and scored twice.
Seth Lee (3-3) pitched 4 2/3 innings and was tagged with the loss, the second time he’s lost to the Storm. He didn’t give up a hit until the fourth – Brevig’s single – and although he gave up all five runs, none was earned.
Lefty Jason Parker retired all seven batters he faced after relieving Lee, including four on strikes.
It was the third time the City of Vision’s teams met on the diamond this season, with Cleveland winning two of the one-run contests – and is now 18-17 all-time vs. the Rams.
Second-place in 1-5A is on the line Friday afternoon at 4 when the Rams visit Volcano Vista.
The Storm are home Friday at 6 for Senior Night, when they’ll face last-place Atrisco Heritage Academy.