The countdown to the record continues this week for Rio Rancho High School baseball coach Ron Murphy, and as long as his Rams win their game at Cibola on Tuesday, he’ll be set to tie the state record of 581 victories, held by longtime Bloomfield coach John Gutierrez.
Murphy picked up his 579th career win Wednesday afternoon at Atrisco Heritage Academy in the Rams’ district 1-5A opener. A win over the Cougars would be No. 580.
Here’s the kicker: Murphy would be poised to match Gutierrez this coming Friday, when the Rams entertain Cleveland High — and with wins May 21 vs. Cibola and this Tuesday at Volcano Vista, Storm coach Shane Shallenberger would be aiming at his 300th career win.
So Friday’s Rams-Storm game will be a significant one, although Murphy and Shallenberger will have plenty more opportunities to surpass those benchmarks.
Rams 10, Atrisco Heritage 0: Junior right-hander Ryan Casados didn’t allow a Jaguar as far as second base until the final inning Wednesday afternoon, and his teammates banged out seven hits in racking up the Rams’ fifth shutout of the season.
Casados (3-0) struck out six and allowed only one ball to be hit beyond the infield. He had a no-hitter intact until shortstop Garrett Rede couldn’t make a throw in time on a ball hit to his left, and the Jaguars (1-9, 0-1) had their lone hit.
The Rams (12-0, 1-0) — off to their best start in school history — scored twice in the second inning, when a leadoff double by Dominic Priddy and a pair of walks preceded Eric Romero’s two-run double to left field.
Eight Rams batted in the third, scoring four runs, when Priddy again doubled and scored, and Kai Fitak, making his varsity debut, added an RBI-double.
Four runs in the fifth gave the visitors a 10-0 lead and shortened the contest via the mercy rule.
Four walks aided the Rams’ cause, and they also got another double from Fitak, an RIB-single by Romero and a bases-loaded walk to Casados.
Romero, Priddy and Fitak led the way with two hits apiece, which included five two-baggers.
Catching up with games of the recent past
In the Rams’ four-games-in-five-days stretch, May 11-15, the Rams won all four, with two wins last weekend. (Accounts of games played May 11 and 12 were reported in the May 16 Observer.)
Rams 5, Valencia 0: On May 14, Stewart Smith (3-0) surrendered just two hits — none after the second inning — and struck out eight, as the Rams beat another Valencia County squad.
After beating Los Lunas and Belen twice each, the Rams had a tougher time against the Jaguars.
For the first time all season, the Rams didn’t score in the first inning.
“We tell our kids, ‘Score in the first inning; it’s good strategy,’” joked head coach Ron Murphy.
As it turned out, the lone run they posted in the second inning — a single by Priddy, a double by Elijah Castañeda and an RBI fielder’s choice off the bat of Colt Uphold — was all they’d need.
Rio Rancho batted around in the fourth, scoring four runs on as many hits. Casados and Castañeda had RBI-singles, and two runs scored on balks.
Castañeda, the designated hitter in the game, and Priddy each went 3 for 3, while Casados had two of the Rams’ 10 hits.
Last Saturday, the Rams were out-hit 7-5 but staked southpaw ace Devon Alvarado (5-0) to a 3-0 lead after two innings.
Romero led off the bottom of the first with a walk off Sartans ace Matt Cornelius, like Alvarado a lefty, and scored on a double by Casados, who made it 2-0 when he came home on a wild pitch.
A Castañeda single, a fielder’s choice off the bat of Alvarado, a walk to Noah Braunschweiger and an RBI single by Romero plated the Rams’ final run of the game.
St. Pius had a pair of singles and a sacrifice fly to score their run in the fourth, which was unearned after the Rams’ second error.
“It’s not every day you walk on the field and see a kid throwing 90 (mph) — and throwing with the wrong hand,” Murphy said of Cornelius, “and a kid that you coached. He’s a 90 guy when he humps it up … a consistently 90 guy.”
Extra innings: Former Rio Rancho resident Brendan Donnelly, once a reliever for the Angels and a member of their 2002 World Series championship team, was in the Rams’ dugout on May 15, cheering the Rams and encouraging them along the way. Murphy, who once coached Donnelly in their days at Sandia High School, said Donnelly was on a major road trip to see some of his teammates from his big-league playing days (2002-10).
… During the Rams’ four games played May 11-15, Casados was on a tear: He batted .667 (6 for 9), with four walks, was hit by a pitch and drove in six runs. “Ryan and Eric (Romero) have been lights-out all year,” Murphy said. “They’re our two toughest outs, by far.”
… Former Rams pitcher Andrew Duran, a freshman at Lamar Community College, was named a first-team pitcher on the All-region IX team. Former Cleveland High standout Damien Roddy is a teammate of Duran’s; the two are freshmen. Duran was 8-1 with a complete game and an ERA of 7.41 this season.