By Eric Butler: PNT Correspondent
By Eric Butler
ALBUQUERQUE — Elida may well come down this road again. And so might the Tigers’ opponent on Tuesday, in the semifinal round of the Class 1A baseball team.
Two very young squads faced off at St. Pius high school in Albuquerque for the right to play for the 1A state championship. And it was the slightly younger team of Gateway Christian that knocked off Elida 15-5 to earn that right.
After the loss, Elida coach Jimmy Dale Ward was hardly rueful over the state tournament experience — which included a 15-9 quarterfinal victory over Gallup Catholic.
“You can’t imagine. Thirty years since we’ve been here, it’s a great feeling just to get here. And to win that first game was awesome,” Ward said. “We’re proud.”
Gateway Christian (19-4) blew a 0-0 game through an inning-and-a-half wide open in the bottom of the second. After Elida starter Tom Sullivan retired the first two Warriors batters, a disastrous eight-run rally was then inflicted upon the Tigers.
Elida (8-12) did crack the scoreboard in the third when Dylan Radcliff doubled into the right-centerfield gap to score Cade Cathey. But the Warriors matched that — and more — by pushing across five more runs across the plate in the bottom of the third for an overwhelming 13-1 advantage.
The strikeout was the predominant way, in fact the only way, that Gateway pitcher Joe Camp retired Elida batters over the first three innings. Camp recorded nine Ks in that span before the Tigers rallied for four runs in the top of the fourth.
In the fourth, Wesley Gilmore and Cathey both stroked doubles for Elida and Radliff bounced a single into right for another run. But that response still left Elida behind 13-5.
Ward, after the game, wished that his team had found the key to hitting Camp a little earlier.
“Oh goodness yes. We finally got to him a little bit, it was about time,” Ward said. “We were slow getting around on him. He’s a good pitcher though.
They’re a well-coached team — we got beat by a good team.”
Gateway Christian entered Tuesday’s contest with not even one senior on its roster. Elida, meanwhile, had one senior — Radcliff — and one junior, catcher Thomas West, on the field for the semifinal.
“Elida’s young too. We played them a doubleheader earlier in the year and beat them two times, but they were both close games,” Gateway Christian coach Rick Rapp said. “I imagine we’ll be battling with them over the next several years.”
The Tigers’ coach was completely amenable to that idea.
“We got some experience. We’ll be back,” Ward said.
Cobre 19, Portales 1
ALBUQUERQUE — Portales’ second-straight trip to the state baseball tournament was a short one, courtesy of Ron Amador and the Cobre Indians.
Portales coach Arturo Ontiveros said the Rams could never get going against Amador, and early Ram errors combined with timely Indian hitting for the rout.
“They swung as good as we’ve seen,” Ontiveros said. “They hit four home runs, I think every guy had at least one hit.”
Portales (14-13) did gain the services of Mario Salazar, whose one-game suspension was overturned by the New Mexico Activities Assocation.
His presence wasn’t enough, though, as Amador held the Rams to three hits in his four innings of work.
Portales goes into next season without the services of catcher Tyler Rutherford, first baseman Jacob Lopez and shortstop Eric Ornelas. Lopez and Rutherford each had one hit for the Rams.
“We’ve got Mario coming back and (pitcher) Justin (Gilchrist) coming back and Sammy Hightower, and we’ve got some (junior varsity) kids who will be coming up,” Ontiveros said. “We should be back in the hunt next year.”