Rams begin district play with sweep of Colts

By Dave Wagner: PNT sports writer

Mario Salazar didn’t like the way he was pitching, so he took matters into his own hands with his bat.

Salazar hit a go-ahead, three-run double to highlight Portales’ five-run fourth in a 7-5 victory over New Mexico Military Institute on Saturday at Ram Field, giving the Rams a sweep of their opening District 4-3A doubleheader. Portales won the first game 8-1 behind the four-hit pitching of senior Justin Gilchrist.

Salazar pitched the first three innings for the Rams (10-6) before switching with senior shortstop Antonio Lucio. At the time, Portales trailed 4-2.

“I wasn’t throwing good at all,” he said.

His double, just inside the right field line, put the Rams in front 5-4 in the fourth. Gilchrist and Todd McBroom followed with run-scoring singles, and Lucio made it stand up with four innings of one-hit, one-run relief.

Lucio gave up a run in the fifth on a leadoff walk, two wild pitches and a sacrifice fly, but left a NMMI runner stranded at third by getting two grounders and a fly ball in the sixth before working a 1-2-3 seventh.

“He got out of a couple of jams,” said Portales assistant coach Dusty Nusser, filling in with head coach Arturo Ontiveros away on a school trip. “That’s what’s nice about him — he’ll compete.”

Gilchrist gave Portales a 2-1 lead in the first with a two-run homer to left-center, but the Colts (7-9) took advantage of two PHS errors for three unearned runs in the second.

“You just have to give Portales credit,” NMMI coach Charlie Ward said. “We’re young, but my boys have to step up. We’ve got to play better as a team.”

Portales got two hits each from five players and outhit the Colts 10-7.

Salazar also had a good first game, driving in three runs with a pair of doubles as Portales scored in every inning except the sixth.

“I never try to do too much with the stick,” Salazar said. “I just want to put the ball in play somewhere and hit it hard.”

Meantime, Gilchrist allowed only four singles, walking four and striking out six. At the plate, he went 2-for-2 with a pair of walks, getting an RBI double in the sixth.

“Justin brought his ‘A’ game,” Ward said. “I thought my pitchers did well enough. We had (scoring) opportunities, but we didn’t get it done.”

Catcher Lynn Pineda doubled home two runs in the fifth, while Jake Leal singled in a run in the fourth. Lucio went 2-for-3 with a walk from the leadoff spot.

“Justin threw really, really well,” Nusser said. “We got the lead early, and that gave us a little bit of confidence.”

Losing pitcher James Boese singled home an unearned run off Gilchrist in the third to briefly tie the score 1-1. Salazar promptly put the Rams back in front with a two-run double in the bottom of the inning.

The Rams continue district play on Tuesday at Lovington, which rolled to 14-3 and 20-0 district wins on Saturday at Ruidoso.

“We’re going to have to come back on Monday and have short memories,” Nusser said of getting ready for Lovington. “We’re going to have to be ready to go on Tuesday.”