By Mickey Winfield: PNT staff writer
The Portales Ram bats came alive on the way to a District 4-3A doubleheader sweep over Ruidoso Tuesday afternoon at the Portales Baseball Field 7-3 and 10-5. A complete game, six-hitter by senior pitcher Mario Salazar in game one set the tone for the effort.
“These guys have been hitting the ball real well and (Mario) came out—he didn’t have his best two outings against NMMI and Dexter but he came out today and pitched his butt off and gave us a great chance to win,” Portales head coach Arturo Ontiveros said.
After two self-admitted ‘bad outings’, Salazar was committed to mixing in off-speed pitches with his fastballs, allowing three runs on six hits and striking out 10 Warriors in seven innings pitched.
“It felt good to bounce back,” Salazar said. “I realize that my last two starts weren’t good. I threw more off-speed stuff than I usually do,” Salazar said. “My fastball was working better than it did my last two outings.”
“That just shows you what kind of kid he is,” Ontiveros said. “He didn’t let it get him down, and he’s still our number one. He’s our go-to-guy and I told him he’s the leader of our team … He’s going to be the guy that we go to and count on in those clutch situations and he understands that and he responded really well today.”
Portales junior catcher Ricky Lovato gave the Rams an early 2-0 lead with a two-run blast in the second inning, before the home team scored another two runs in the second inning to take a 4-0 advantage.
Ruidoso crawled to within one run in the sixth inning, but the Rams pulled away once again, scoring three runs in the bottom of the sixth. With one runner on base, sophomore Logan Erf belted out an RBI triple, before shortstop Brandon Adkins scored Erf with a single down the middle of the field to give the Rams a 6-3 lead.
Salazar helped his own cause with a sacrifice fly-ball to dead centerfield, scoring Adkins, and giving Portales a 7-3 first game victory.
The Rams kept the pressure on in the second game, as Phillip Danbom got the win, allowing five runs and Portales won the night-cap 10-5.
The Rams (8-5, 6-2) continue District 4-3A action Saturday at Lovington before traveling to Clovis Tuesday for a non-district contest.
“If we win this next one we really put ourselves in a good position,” Ontiveros said. “But we go down to Lovington on Saturday and we’ll see what happens down there.”