By Dave Wagner
LITTLEFIELD, Texas — Justin Gilchrist and the Portales High Rams may have had a slight case of the jitters early in Thursday’s first-round game of Littlefield’s Wildcat Classic.
Unfortunately for Tulia, Texas, the Hornets didn’t take advantage when they had the chance.
Gilchrist issued a walk and committed a throwing error, putting runners in scoring position with just one out in the top of the first. But Tulia managed only one run out of it, and Gilchrist went on to pitch a two-hitter as the Rams posted a 5-1 victory.
Portales (2-0) will now take on Idalou (Texas), an 8-5 winner over Amarillo San Jacinto, in a 5:30 p.m. (MST) semifinal game today.
“Justin struggled early, but he settled down and was real effective,” PHS coach Arturo Ontiveros said.
Catcher Tyler Rutherford went 3-for-3 and drove in two runs and first baseman Jacob Lopez was 2-for-3 with an RBI for Portales, which had seven hits.
“We were a little lackadaisical early,” Lopez said, “but once we saw a few pitches we started playing like ourselves.”
The best things PHS did on offense were to put its leadoff man on base in all six innings and drive in runners from third with less than two outs. That situation accounted for four of the Rams’ runs — an RBI single by Rutherford in the first, a sacrifice fly by Gilchrist in the fourth and run-scoring groundouts by designated hitter Jordan Obenhaus in the fifth and Lopez in the sixth.
“I didn’t swing the bat very good last weekend (in a season-opening 8-3 road win over Littlefield),” Lopez said. “I was a little too excited. This game I swung the bat like I know how.”
Portales had 11 baserunners in the game, but stranded only one. The Rams had one runner picked off, another thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double and three more erased on Tulia double plays.
“We played pretty decent, but we had three or four mental mistakes,” Ontiveros said. “Those will come back and hurt you in a close game.”
Gilchrist struggled with control and location in the first couple of innings, but once he settled in the Hornets (1-2) seemed overmatched.
He retired 16 of the last 18 batters he faced, including 12 in a row before issuing a two-out walk in the seventh to Josh Saldana. Gilchrist walked three and struck out eight.
“Their pitcher wasn’t overpowering, but he put the ball where he needed to put it,” Hornets coach Eric Wilson said. “We helped him out a little bit too; we swung at some pitches out of the strike zone.
“Their catcher is a pretty good player, which we knew. But they played in the state championship game last year, so we’re happy with how we played.”
Portales manufactured the tying run in the bottom of the first when Sammy Hightower walked, stole second, moved to third on Eric Ornelas’ groundout and scored on Rutherford’s bloop single to left.
Ornelas reached on an error in the fourth and rode home on Rutherford’s triple to right-center before Gilchrist hit his sacrifice fly.
In the fifth, Obenhaus’ groundout drove in Todd Mosier, who beat out an infield single and went all the way to third on a two-base error by Hornets first baseman Brad Davis. Then Rutherford led off the sixth with a double, and courtesy runner Bradley West came around on groundouts by Gilchrist and Lopez.
Portales 5, Tulia (Texas) 1
Tulia 100 000 0 — 1 2 3
Portales 100 211 x — 5 7 1
Kevin Burrow, Israel Guido (6) and Rocky Trevino; Justin Gilchrist and Tyler Rutherford. W — Gilchrist (2-0). L — Burrow. DP — Tulia 3. LOB — Portales 1, Tulia 5. 2B — Portales: Rutherford. 3B — Portales: Rutherford. T — 1:32.
At Littlefield, Texas
All Times MST
Portales 5, Tulia 1
Idalou 8, Amarillo San Jacinto 5
Abernathy 15, Friona 0
Littlefield 9, Lubbock Roosevelt 2, game called in bottom of 5th, rain
Lubbock Roosevelt vs. Friona, 10 a.m.
Tulia vs. San Jacinto, 3 p.m.
Littlefield vs. Abernathy, 12:30 p.m.
Portales vs. Idalou, 5:30 p.m.
7th place, 10 a.m.
5th place, 12:30 p.m.
3rd place, 3 p.m.
Championship, 5:30 p.m.