ALBUQUERQUE — For the second consecutive year, the Portales Rams made it to the final four of New Mexico Class 3A baseball — and once again, they’re coming home one game shy of the finals.
The top-seeded Cobre Indians jumped on top early and never lost their lead in a 10-7 win against Portales Friday morning in the 3A semifinals at the University of New Mexico’s Lobo Field.
“Our kids deserve a shot and it would have been nice for us to come out on top,” Portales coach Arturo Ontiveros said. “Baseball’s funny that way sometimes.”
The Rams committed three errors, but each one came with runners in scoring position and accounted for the majority of Cobre’s runs.
“We gave up too many unearned runs,” Ontiveros said. “Our errors came at costly times with runners in scoring position.”
Portales senior pitcher Phillip Danbom allowed eight runs on three hits in four-plus innings of work.
“I was confident, but I just didn’t have my best stuff today,” Danbom said. “I didn’t locate like I normally do. My curveball was all right, but I couldn’t throw for strikes every time when I needed to.”
While Danbom wasn’t happy with his work from the mound, he did well at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a triple and a single and bringing home two runs.
Fellow senior Mario Salazar went 2-for-4 with two singles and an RBI.
“Our kids swung the bat pretty well,” Ontiveros said. “We hit the ball hard right at people. Even the outs that we made were hit pretty well. It was a pretty good day at the plate; we just didn’t get too many breaks today.
“We had a chance to come back, and the attitude in the dugout was great. We never got down.”
Cobre took advantage of two Portales errors in the first to take a 5-2 lead. The Indians made it 6-2 with another run in the third.
The Rams outhit the Indians 10-5, but couldn’t overcome the early deficit.
“We’ve got pretty confident kids,” Ontiveros said. “Even though they’re young and we have a lot of inexperienced kids, they still battle. I don’t think they know any better than just to play hard and try and fight until the game is over.”
The Rams have several key contributors returning next year, including junior catcher Ricky Lovato and sophomores Brandon Adkins and Joe Sandoval, but they’ll need to start from scratch on their pitching staff with the loss to graduation of Danbom and Salazar.
“We only have four seniors,” Ontiveros said. “We’re very young in a lot of respects, but we’re losing our two pitchers.
“We’re looking for some great things from those younger kids but we’re just going to have to develop some arms and some pitching to help us get through the next few years.”