Rams split with defending champs

By Mickey Winfield: PNT staff writer

The Portales Ram baseball team sent a clear message to the defending Class 3A state champion Lovington Wildcats with a 10-0 rout in the first game of a district-opening doubleheader Tuesday afternoon at Ram Field. The Wildcats earned the split, though, winning the nightcap 5-3.

Senior pitcher Mario Salazar set the tone early for the Rams, allowing just one hit and one walk in 4 1/2 shutout innings.

“Mario pitched a heck of a game,” Portales head coach Arturo Ontiveros said. “He just pitched his tail off.”

“I felt good again. My fastball was working and I just hit my spots,” Salazar said. “I threw them off with my curveball, I just mainly threw fastball and curveball.”

While Salazar stifled the Wildcat bats, junior catcher Ricky Lovato helped spur the Ram offense, going 2-for-4 with 3 RBI’s.

“Last year (Lovington was)the team to beat in the district,” Ontiveros said. “Our kids made a statement saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to stinking battle this year.’”

The second game of the doubleheader saw the two teams trade first inning runs, before the Wildcats (5-5, 1-1) scored two runs in the top of the fourth inning to take a 3-1 lead.

The Rams (5-3, 1-1) answered in the bottom of the sixth inning as senior pitcher Phillip Danbom and sophomore Joe Sandoval both brought in runs to tie the game at 3-3, but a Portales throwing error combined with a Lovington RBI single in the top of the seventh handed a 5-3 decision to the Wildcats.

Danbom went 6 1/3 innings in the second game for the Rams, giving up five runs on seven hits.

“This is our first (district) doubleheader,” Ontiveros said. “A split with Lovington, the defending state champions, is pretty good for our kids.”

The Rams travel to Roswell for a non-district contest against the Goddard Rockets Thursday, before continuing District 4-3A play Tuesday at NMMI.