By Mickey Winfield, PNT Staff Writer
The Portales Rams’ first district championship in recent memory has them charged for a run through the New Mexico Class 3A state tournament — and that run begins today.
Portales hits the diamond today as the fifth-seed in a state first round contest, hosting 12th-seeded Tohatchi at Ram Field at 1 p.m.
Senior pitcher Mario Salazar likes his team’s chances in the playoffs.
“We’ve been working hard trying to (get to a state championship),” Salazar said. “We’ve come together as a team pretty well and we’re hitting the ball a lot better than a lot of people thought we would. Everybody’s doing their part.”
Although not much is known about Portales’ first round opponent, the Cougars’ (2-9) only two wins came against winless Wingate, and Tohatchi has been out-scored in their 11 games 39-174.
“They’ve had a rough year,” Ram head coach Arturo Ontiveros said. “They just kind of struggled and they’re having a down year … We’ve still got to play and we’ve got to put together a good game.”
Ontiveros and Salazar also indicated the importance of playing sharp in their first round game.
“If you come out and play sloppy, you tend to go into the next game playing sloppy,” Ontiveros said. “If you polish up on some things and come out with a good strong win, then that’s going to carry over into the state tournament.”
“It’s always important to start off good,” Salazar said. “I feel that it is important for us to set the tone.”
The Rams hosted Elida Thursday afternoon in a game that was scheduled long before the state playoff brackets were released and according to Ontiveros, the game served as a state tournament tune-up for both squads.
While Portales has their state tournament road map in their hand, Elida won’t learn their opponent until Sunday.
Portales won 13-3 in five innings, as Logan Erf went 3-for-3 from the plate with three RBI’s. Fellow sophomore Brandon Adkins went 2-for-2 with a triple and a double and three runs batted in.
The Rams also worked four pitchers starting with senior Mario Salazar.
“He looked all right (except for) some location problems,” Ontiveros said. “Mario always seems to start out slow and then he picks up toward the latter innings.”
Salazar will start from the mound in today’s first round contest, and since he hasn’t seen any of Tohatchi’s hitters, he says he’ll adjust to them as the game progresses.
“We’ll see what they look like once they get here and we get settled. We’ll figure that out as the game goes along,” Salazar said.
Tickets for today’s game cost $3 for adults and $1 for students and may be purchased at the gate.
The winner of today’s first round game travels to Albuquerque’s La Cueva High School to play Bloomfield in the state quarterfinals Wednesday.