Here are the District 1-5A baseball champs, happily posing after their extra-inning victory at the Cleveland Shock Yards Tuesday evening. (Herron photo)
Dylan Archuleta almost had fewer words than RBIs in a post-game interview Tuesday evening.
His Rio Rancho Rams (22-1-2) 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, taking a 12-5 victory that clinched first place in District 1-5A, regardless of how they fare Friday afternoon against visiting Volcano Vista.
All Archuleta (5-0) had done in that impressive triumph was pitch 4 2/3 innings in relief of starter Kai Fitak, striking out 10 Storm batters 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 Josh 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, but he 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:
- Dylan Tinker hit a soft popup to third baseman Gabe Nelson, and the ball popped out of his glove for an error.
- Casen 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.
- Vascon Smith, who doubled home two runs in the first, hit a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Fitak.
- Sean 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.
- Byer 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,” RRHS coach Ron 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.
“We’re gonna go after it on Friday,” Murphy vowed, hoping to beat Volcano Vista (18-6, 5-2) for the third time this season. A win by the Hawks would not only end the Rams’ impressive winning streak, but also establish VVHS as the second-place team in the district, relegating Cleveland to third. And that’s assuming the Storm (15-7, 4-3) win their game at last-place Atrisco Heritage Academy (10-15, 0-7) Friday afternoon at 4.
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.
If Cleveland and Rio Rancho win Friday, a tiebreaker would be sued to determine who is deemed the 1-5A runner-up; head to head, they ach won one-run games against each other. Ironically, what would have been another game between the Hawks and Storm – the third-place APS Metro Championships’ third-place game – was canceled.
“It’s an important game for Cleveland, for us to win on Friday. We’re gonna play our starters, get after it and try to play some good baseball,” he concluded.
Seth Lee (5-0) is expected to start the game on the hill for RRHS.
Extra innings: This is the 11th district title for the Rams, who also topped the district in 2001, 2006-10, 2014-16 and ’21.
… The Class 5A bracket will be released by the New Mexico Activities Association on Sunday. As usual, the higher seeds host the best two of three first round, and the Rams will probably start their series against the 16 seed Friday afternoon next week.
… Prior to Tuesday’s action, the MaxPreps 5A rankings had the Rams No. 1, followed by La Cueva, Cleveland, Carlsbad, Volcano Vista, Centennial and Sandia, who all will probably end up with first-round home games. District 5-5A champ Rio Grande will also be a home site for the first round.