By Mickey Winfield: PNT staff writer
If the Portales Ram baseball team hopes to match or exceed their success from a year ago, they’ll be doing it with a younger, less experienced team.
The Rams concluded their 2006 season with a 7-6 loss to the eventual state champion and district foe Lovington Wildcats in the Class 3A state semifinals.
The Rams graduated eight seniors players from last year’s team.
“We’re really young,” third-year Ram head coach Arturo Ontiveros said. “Last year we had 13 seniors, so we lost quite a bit of experience.”
Last year’s pitching ace Justin Gilchrist is gone along with pitcher and top hitter Sammy Hightower.
Still, Ontiveros believes the Rams’ strength is pitching.
The big addition for the Portales pitching staff is senior pitcher Phillip Danbom. Danbom transferred from Dora and was ineligible last season.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys, and if we play like we should, we could have a big year,” Danbom said.
Senior Mario Salazar, Ricky Lovato, Brandon Adkins and Ozzie McMullen round out the pitching staff. Salazar was the Rams’ No. 2 starter last season.
“We’re going to have to ride (Phillip and Mario) throughout the year,” Ontiveros said.
Ontiveros’ chief concern is the Portales offense.
“That’s the department where we are really (hurting),” Ontiveros said. “Sammy and (Antonio) Lucio were pretty good with the stick. They were a big part of our batting order. That’s the part we’re really going to have to work on.”
The Rams play their annual 100-inning game Saturday at Ram Field and open the season March 8-10 at the Levelland (Texas) Tournament.
“If we get the bats going and we start executing, we’re going to have to hit-and-run and bunt a little bit,” Ontiveros said. “I think if we can do some of those things successfully, I think that it will go a long way.”