By Kevin Wilson
With the weather as a possible exception, Saturday was pretty much a day the Portales High baseball team would like to forget.
With 90-degree heat, no rain and a minimal amount of wind, it was a perfect day for baseball at Ram Field — and visiting Lovington used the day to sweep Portales and clinch the District 4-3A championship.
Lovington (19-5, 10-0 district) moved three games ahead of New Mexico Military Institute with two to play and knocked the Rams out of playoff contention with a pair of wins, 16-4 and 8-2.
Portales (6-17, 3-7) needed a sweep over the Wildcats to keep any hopes of a playoff berth, but it wouldn’t have mattered as NMMI swept a Saturday doubleheader with Ruidoso to lock up the district runnerup spot.
Lovington took control early in each game, roughing up Portales starting pitchers Nathan Goyne and Seth Clabaugh.
The Wildcats scored 12 runs, 11 earned, in the first two innings off Goyne, who had troubles against a solid Lovington lineup. Goyne left the mound after two innings having allowed 12 hits — two homers — with two walks and two hit batters.
In the second game, Lovington capitalized on Clabaugh’s control problems in a five-run third. Clabaugh twice walked batters with the bases loaded, then shortstop Eric Valencia gave the Wildcats all the offense they’d need with a bases-clearing double.
The Wildcats were comfortable hitting in Ram Field, a cavernous field compared to their own — Wildcat Field is regarded as a Little League park by district rivals.
“It doesn’t matter what field you play on,” Lovington coach Robert Arreola said. “You’ve still got to do the basics.
“We’re young, but the guys are coming up and taking advantage, working the count and when the pitch is there, they’re going after it.”
Lovington went after it with a chance to clinch district, and it was the difference against a Ram team that was knocked out of the playoffs before the second game started. Centerfielder Sammie Corral led the charge for Lovington by going 3 for 5 with five RBIs and four runs scored.
“We really didn’t play too bad,” Portales assistant Arturo Ontiveros said, “but they hit the ball and we didn’t get the timely hits. We didn’t get the hits we needed.
“We made our errors, but it wouldn’t have made a difference. They hit the ball and they hit it well.”
Jonathan Hernandez and Will Aranda each had two-run home runs in the first game. Aranda pitched for Lovington in the first game, giving up four runs on four hits. He struck out five and walked one.
Matt Palmer was dominant on the mound for the Wildcats in the second game with the exception of a two-run sixth inning for Portales. He allowed two runs on four hits. He walked one and struck out 10 Ram batters.
Chances are that neither pitcher will be used again until regional playoffs. Tuesday’s doubleheader between Lovington and NMMI is meaningless for district standings.
“It really gives us a chance to throw some guys who haven’t got their innings in,” Arreola said, “because once you get to regionals, if you don’t have pitching (you’re in trouble).”
Portales will end its season Tuesday with a doubleheader at Ruidoso.