ALBUQUERQUE — This time, there would be no great comeback, keeping their hopes alive for a blue trophy.
For the second year in a row the Cleveland High baseball season ended with a loss to La Cueva, 8-6, in the Class 5A quarterfinals round Thursday afternoon at Santa Ana Star Field.
The Storm (18-11) had pulled off a miraculous rally to advance to the quarterfinals, but after the third-seeded Bears (23-4) roughed up Storm ace Jace Dominic for a 5-0 lead after two innings, that comeback seemed less likely.
Nonetheless, the No. 6 Storm only trailed by a run heading into the bottom of the sixth.
Junior Austin Barela tripled home the Storm’s first three runs, giving his team hope in the fifth.
With two down, Dominic walked, DJ Sandoval singled and catcher Braylon Elzy was hit on his glove hand with a pitch. Barela then emptied the bases, making it a 5-3 contest.
In the sixth, Roman Branaugh doubled, went to third on a flyout and scored on Jaden Davis’s groundout, making it a 5-4 ballgame.
But La Cueva, which beat the Storm 10-4 in a 2021 quarterfinal, batted around in its half of the sixth against reliever Logan Kinter, scoring three runs for an 8-4 edge.
In the seventh, with Matthew Dinae taking over for Bears starter Greyson Long, Sandoval doubled with one out, and scored after Elzy singled and a throwing error as Sandoval scored allowed Elzy to take second.
Elzy moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on Barela’s groundout. Kinter then sent a fly ball to center, where Colt Mangino made a great catch to end the game.
“Resilient,” is how CHS coach Shane Shallenberger described his team after its gritty late comeback fell short.
“We were without one of our main guys (Gavin Hoffman, out with the flu), a pitcher, this weekend, and our game plan was to get through today and hopefully have enough for (the semifinals).
“I thought the kids had a great season. The kids are resilient; we battled back. We got down, we kept battling back,” Shallenberger said. “I’m proud of this team and I really like them. … I’ll go ahead and play with these guys any day.
“We battled some adversity today, for sure, and we stayed in the game and had a chance. That’s all we can ask.”
Some of that adversity included the Bears stealing the Storm’s signs, which were changed more than once during the game, and Elzy taking a shot to his catching hand, which required a UNM trainer’s aid.
And it didn’t help that Dominic, steady on the mound in the regular season, lost his last two starts: to Centennial on May 6 and to La Cueva one week later.
Sandoval and Elzy each had two hits to lead the Storm in their prep career finales.
It was La Cueva’s second win over the Storm this season, as the Bears won a 6-4 contest at the Shockyards on April 13.

Cleveland’s Jace Dominic (22) prepares to high-five teammate XY Cornelio after both scored on Austin Barela’s fifth-inning triple. (Herron photo)