Rams advance in 3A state baseball tourney

PNT staff

LAS VEGAS, N.M. — Junior Mario Salazar threw 5 1/3 innings in relief and the Portales Rams escaped two early deficits on Saturday en route to a 13-8 victory over Las Vegas Robertson in a first-round game of the Class 3A state baseball tournament.

The Rams (14-12), seeded 12th in the 16-team field, advance to a 3 p.m. quarterfinal at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque against fourth-seeded Bloomfield, which beat Grants 14-4 on Friday night.

“Mario Salazar wanted the game today,” PHS coach Arturo Ontiveros said.

“He pretty much stopped them until we could get going.
“This is as deep as we’ve been (in pitching). If someone gets in trouble, there’s somebody else we can call on.”

Trailing 3-0, the Rams scored six runs in the second keyed by a two-run double from Lynn Pinedo and a two-run single by Justin Gilchrist, who started on the mound but struggled with control and was replaced by Salazar after Robertson’s first two hitters reached in the second.

“Justin just couldn’t get his control down,” Ontiveros said of Gilchrist, who was coming off some shoulder problems. “He didn’t throw much this week and I think that’s what affected him.”

The Cardinals (17-9) scored four runs for a 7-6 lead, but a two-run error and Salazar’s RBI groundout put the Rams back in front for good in the third.

Salazar allowed six hits and three runs, with one walk and four strikeouts. He threw 83 pitches and gave way to senior Antonio Lucio, who got the final two outs for the Rams in the bottom of the seventh.

Lucio doubled and scored on Gilchrist’s single in the fifth, and two more runs scored on another error to make it 12-7. The Rams tacked on their final run in the seventh when Kevin Gonzales’ two-out single drove in Gilchrist, who drew a leadoff walk.

Despite its lower seed, Portales had swept doubleheaders from the fifth-seeded Cardinals in each of the past three seasons — all in Portales.

“I didn’t know how our kids were going to react,” Ontiveros said of the early deficit. “But they stayed in there and battled back.”

The Rams collected 12 hits, including two each for Pinedo, Lucio, Brandon Adkins and Gilchrist. Both of Lucio’s hits were doubles.

Thursday’s state quarterfinals and Friday’s semifinals are scheduled for UNM. The 3A championship game is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Saturday at Isotopes Stadium.