The Rio Rancho High School baseball team moved one win away from a Class 5A state quarterfinal berth Friday, downing visiting Volcano Vista 8-4.
The No. 7 Rams (23-4) needed only one win Saturday in the best-of-three first round to play Thursday at 7 p.m. at Santa Ana Star Field (aka Lobo Field), where they’d face the winner of the Mayfield-Sandia series.
Eight consecutive singles in the fifth inning — the first seven off southpaw starter Regan Hall — led to the Rams’ fourth win of the year over Volcano Vista. Eight days earlier, the Rams had chased Hall in the fifth inning at VVHS, a game the Rams won, 8-2, to claim second place in District 1-5A.
Oddly, Rams senior Dominick Priddy, usually the starting catcher, was deployed to right field for the game in what Rams coach Ron Murphy termed a “mish-mosh” lineup. Priddy led off the big frame with a fly out, and ended it by lining into a double play.
Between Priddy’s at-bats, Elijah Castañeda, Kai Fitak, Vascon Smith, Izaiah Tafoya, Josh Boyer, Seth Lee and Casen Savage, whose two-run hit ended the outburst, all singled off Hall. Adan Young came in and Ryan Casados slapped the eighth single in a row before Priddy ended it.
Tafoya came into the game as a defensive replacement at second base, and his two-run single in his first at-bat made it a 5-3 Rams lead.
Murphy, always a proponent of “small ball,” said Tafoya’s key hit might have been his team’s best at-bat all season, as he’d had a 3-2 count before fouling off three pitches.
“He’s a kid batting .250,” Murphy said, adding, it was a “total team effort.”
Murphy was understandably worried after his team stranded five runners in scoring position through the first four innings, and a total of five for the game.
Fitak, back at third base to start the game after a late-season injury, singled homer the Rams’ first run, making it a 2-1 Hawks lead after three innings. Tafoya walked, went to second on a sacrifice by Boyer and plated the Rams’ second run on a single by Lee, to tie it at 2.
Volcano Vista, falling to the Rams for the sixth time in a row — their last win over RRHS was in a 2019 state semifinal — took a 3-2 lead in the fifth and scored their final run in the sixth.
Devon Alvarado (7-0) went 5 1/3 innings to get the win, with one-hit relief from Fitak.
Savage, Casados, Castañeda, Boyer and Lee each had two hits for the Rams.
Alijah Gonzales’s two-run homer in the first gave the Hawks (14-11) an early lead.
Game 2 of the series is Saturday morning at 10, also at RRHS. If a third game is needed, it will take place about a half-hour after the second game.